Wikilessons - Mentors in Open Learning Environments


Author Salvör Gissurardóttir


This Icelandic project is a collection of over 100 finished wikilessons written by teacher education students and their instructor in spring semester 2007 and around 30 wikilessons in process along with instructions and learning material about wikis for the students . The goal of this project is to train the education students to use open content and be mentors in open learning environments.

The teacher education students were trained in using wikis as a easy tool to present educational content on the web and to work in open environment were everyone can edit all content. More importantly the students were trained in including and linking to content in wikipedia and wikimedia commons, that is trained in using learning objects from huge online databases whenever they needed to define (wikipedia) or describe in pictures (commons) .

The 100 finished student created wikilessons are in the open platform These wikilessons are now ready to by used by learners who can read the lessons and test their understanding of the material covered by taking the included wiki quizzes and follow the links in the wikilessons to foster deeper understanding and futher exploration of the subject. The finished wikilessons are not finished in the sense that they are static because even though the student have stopped writing, every teacher or wikibooks user can copy, change and expand these wikilessons as is a open learning environment where everyone can edit.

The around 30 wikilessons in process are located on the school wiki not on as we are now (autumn 2007) exploring and testing out more mediawiki extentions to include videos (youtube), sound (mp3) and mindmaps (freemind) in our wikilessons. That is not yet possible in Wikibooks. It is also easier for students to start working and experimenting with wikis in a sheltered school wiki were access can be controlled even if the wikilesson is later to be moved (copied) to wikibooks when it is finished. For portability it is important to have mediawiki setup as similiar to wikibooks as possible.

The methods used in this project can be used both on school mediawiki and on wikibooks. It can be used by every school and every teacher in their own environment given they have set up or have access to their own mediawiki and have also downloaded and set up the right extentions (the quiz extension, some templates and interwiki links etc) . Mediawiki a free open source software available in almost all languages (available in all languages that have wikipedia version) Right now those who have their own mediawiki need to download pictures from Commons and then upload them into their own mediawiki (with appropriate copyright notice) as only mediawiki project can link directly to material in Commons.

It should be easy to config interwiki on school wiki such as you can link directly to wikipedia articles in same way as on wikibooks. It should be easy to use the methods of this project to first write wikilessons in school or institution mediawiki and then release the content into or thus making it a part of the free open educational content of the world. It has several advantages for European schools to have access to as much free educational material as possible in wikibooks, all material on wikibooks can be translated into other languages and wikipedia exists in most languages and wikimedia commons is accessible to all wikibooks. Wikibooks is available in most european languages and wikiversity in several.

Each of the students in online and distance learning teacher certificate program in Iceland University of Education in spring semester 2007 were required to write one wikilesson in their field with content, pictures, quiz and suggestions for further readings and learning activities. The lessons were written using the platform (a project by the Wikimedia) thus making it very easy for students to include links to Icelandic and English wikipedia articles (interwiki links) and include the media files (mostly pictures) from

The students had no prior experience in using wikis and majority are in non technical fields and have no experience in programming. The students learned the most basic mediawiki commands and started writing the wikilessons. The instructor corrected the pages and suggested changes. Thus the writing of the lessons was a collaborative writing and communication between student and instructor as can be viewed by looking at history of each wikipage.

The students had to make quizzes or other learning activities as part of their lessons and majority used Hot Potatos (program free for education use). Resently mediawiki quiz extention was added to thus making it possible for the instructor to convert the quizzes so they are now part of the lessons.

The students had to use pictures from the commons ( or their own pictures or illustrations in their wikilessons and all material uploaded and included in the wikilessons was subject to the wikimedia rules for copyright and open content. Thus everyone (not only other students but everyone) can edit every wikilesson since wikibooks is a free collection of open-content textbooks that anyone can edit. The instructor is administrator on Icelandic wikibooks and can protect individual wikipages in case of vandalism.

The instructor finished the project after the course was finished by correcting errors, converting quizzes from Hot potatos to mediawiki quiz and by writing and including templates on the wikilessons.

Most of the students were very interested in writing their wikilesson and browsing the wikilessons of other students and rated this learning activity high.

There is a continuation of this project now (autumn 2007) but it is right now on our school wiki ( not on wikibooks as we want to explore and test more extentions such as including videos, sound, imagemaps, mindmaps and prefer to work in a more sheltered environment until the wikibooks are finished. Hopefully the wikilessons will be moved to wikibooks when they are finished.

Writing wikilessons linking to wikipedia and using pictures from Commons and adding wiki quizzes seem to be easy way for ordinary non technical teachers to write learning material on the web that uses the huge free sources available in wikipedia and commons, both databases now with over 2 million items. Writing wikilessons is also a way in tune with the web 2.0 making collaborative writing possible and building up databases of wikilessons were the uses create the content. Wikipages can be collaboration of group of people but in in this project the collaborators were two - the student writing the lesson and the instructior editing the lesson. This was also a experiment in student-teacher communication where the instructr corrected the student work directly (and in some cases by writing on the discussion page) instead of telling him how and what to correct. The student could use the history of the wikipage to track changes and see what the t instructor had changed.

The website of the project is (orámsefni )