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Wikipedia and language teaching

I guess all of you know Wikipedia, don’t you?  Maybe you use it in your daily work for fact-finding, or you fight the abusive use of it by your students, or perhaps both… In any case, it’s an interesting crowd-sourced encyclopaedia, which has changed our relation to knowledge. But what about using Wikipedia as a tool for learning and teaching?

Working on Wikipedia with pupils can be a very interesting exercise. First of all, Wikipedia as all Wikis is quite easy to use once you have registered as a user. Then, editing is a team work (for pupils and teachers if you decide to set up an interdisciplinary project), where different skills are promoted, and not just linguistic ones. It’s about learning by doing, and pupils contribute to something really concrete that goes beyond the limits of the class. Therefore it is also about empowering your students and giving young contributors a strong sense that their knowledge (in particular their language skills) matters and that they are a part of a wider community. By editing Wikipedia, students learn how information is jointly crafted and why knowledge management is a continuous process which requires constant updates just as preparing lessons. From a more linguistic point of view, the different language versions show concrete cases of translations, are easy to compare and can be discussed in the “revision history” of each article.

As some of you already know, there is a set of articles in Wikipedia about Juvenes Translatores. I originally wrote the French one 2 years ago and a few colleagues kindly helped with the translations in a few more languages, adding their own touch. JT participants and teachers also gave us a hand. Since then, I have a look at them from time to time. The articles are living their own life now, and everyone is perfectly free to contribute to and amend them, which is the beauty (and sometimes the curse) of Wikipedia.  Until now there have been articles in French, English, Swedish, Slovene, Dutch, Maltese and German. All these articles can be updated, and other linguistic versions can be edited. So why not do a project with your students to update or create new articles, by translating and/or writing updates in their mother tongue or in their foreign language? Take your pick.

If I managed to convince you, don’t hesitate to discuss this matter under the thread on the JT blog, to ask for information and share your experience with us and colleagues from other countries.

Bon travail !


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