Divya Mangwani, DNA | Last Modified - May 29, 2011, 05:56 AM IST
Pune: Pune will soon become the first city outside the United States to host the 'Wikipedia campus ambassador programme'.
The initiative is part of the larger 'India education programme' to augment interest and support the Wikipedia community in the country. Hisham Mundol of the Wikimedia Foundation's India Programmes explained, "We understand that information about India and contributed by people from India are sorely missing from Wikipedia, and we want to change that. The programme is our way of piloting ways to change this."
The programme involves encouraging professors in city colleges and universities to implement the use of Wikipedia as an educational tool, covering a diverse range of academic subjects. It proposes to replace or augment reports and papers that students are required to prepare with Wikipedia articles and formally incorporate it into the syllabus.
This is where the campus ambassadors come in. They will help in updating content, adding references, training student editors, organising workshops and presentations to promote educational activities using the world's largest encyclopedia.
The volunteers will work for three to four hours a week, initially trained by the Wikimedia Foundation. Though the position is unpaid, the benefits include interacting with educators on a global level.
Mundol said, "This will sharpen their research and critical thinking abilities, improve writing skills, and will learn how to work collaboratively by interacting with readers and writers around the world." He is also confident that the educational programme would play an important role in motivating students and increase interest of participating universities.
Harvard University, University of California, Berkeley, Syracuse, and Georgetown University in the US have already incorporated Wikipedia in the curricula of different academic subjects. The campus ambassador programme was launched in 2010 to facilitate this, with volunteers mentoring first-time editors, along with providing lessons plans, online and video tutorials.
When Wikimedia Foundation decided to take their education-based programme globally, Pune was the pilot city chosen in India.
"We chose Pune as the region for the kick-off because the city has a strong reputation for education in India and is reported to have the highest concentration of education institutions in the world. Also, a very interesting aspect of the Pune student body is that they come from all over the country; so there is great diversity which is also very important to us", said Mundol.
City institutions open to innovative teaching and learning practices are currently being approached as partners. The launch of the programme is set to coincide with the start of the academic year of 2011.
Applications for campus ambassadors will be accepted from students, professors, faculty members and others related to the educational field based anywhere in India but willing to come to Pune for training sessions.
The Wikimedia Foundation's presence in India will also help promote awareness, access and readership of its other projects like 'Wikimedia Commons' as well as 'Indic language Wikipedias', revealed Mundol.