First consecutive multi-school collaborative Wikipedia Editathon in Japan

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Saitama Prefectural Omiya High School and Saitama Prefectural Fudoka High School in Japan collaborated to host Wikipedia Town in June and November 2022. This is the first initiative of its kind in Japan, as there have been no initiatives in which several schools have held the event simultaneously or consecutively. It should be noted that the age range covered by Japanese senior high schools is mainly from 15 to 18 years, which corresponds to grades 11 to 13 in the UK. Na.

Connectivity with education policy in Japan

In the past few years, many policies for young people have been implemented in Japan, such as lowering the voting age and the age of adulthood, while at the same time the need for citizenship education has been strongly emphasised. At the same time, the GIGA Schools Programme was presented, setting out a policy for ICT education for pupils and students from elementary to high school, i.e. from the age of 6 to 18. Today, based on this policy, one tablet, PC or other terminal is lent to each student at school, and many programmes have been created both inside and outside school. In addition, the concept of ‘digital citizenship’ has been proposed as a way of education in the advanced information society, and its implementation is being built. Most recently, ‘comprehensive study time’ has also been established, where students are expected to discover social issues on their own and play a part in creating a sustainable society, and are expected to acquire the thinking skills to do so.

The content regarding these programmes (instructional plans) is left to the school establishment and teachers, and a wide variety of initiatives are being developed in different parts of the country. There are also several examples of initiatives that share the Wikipedia approach and seek to foster digital citizenship.

The Wikipedia Town held in Saitama Prefecture this time was selected as a programme with the following objectives: to “cultivate the basis for inquiry activities through fieldwork and literature research” and “create opportunities for interaction with people outside the school, including cooperation with other schools, with the help of the school library and external organisations”. Wikipedia Towns in Japan have expanded greatly through the writing of information about the town by many hands, including those of its residents. This is an example of an editathon on the theme of a town with a school, involving high school students who are not necessarily direct residents of the town.

A simultaneous multi-school Wikipedia Town takes place at a Saitama prefectural high school!

First time held

School teachers and school librarians from the school side, Wikipedians including members of the Waseda Wikipedian Circle in addition to Araisyohei, and Academic Resource Guide Inc. as co-ordinator of the inquiry learning programme.

The first editathon took place on 25 June 2022. In the first half of the programme, members of the Waseda Wikipedian Circle gave a lecture on how to conduct a literature search and how to create texts, which must be done before starting to edit Wikipedia. Specifically, they gave an overview of “Google Scholar” and “Research Navi” provided by the National Diet Library, as well as how to use search operators (OR search, NOT search, etc.) to search for literature. In addition, in writing the articles, the three main Wikipedia policies of “verifiability”, “neutral point of view” and “no original research” are taken into account: “clearly state the source, and do not use words such as “excellent~” or “overwhelmingly successful”. It was explained that the only description should be “what is stated in the source material”, avoiding statements that are impressions such as “great -” or “overwhelming victory”.

Teachers from each school then stood in front of the students and explained the elements and methods by which the text of a Wikipedia article needs to be structured. The theme of this year’s event was ‘How to do academic writing’, and when we asked the teachers what they thought afterwards, they said that they had not had much opportunity to explain the content and were a little worried about whether their students had understood it or not. However, the participating high school students ended up writing articles that exceeded their expectations.

Video filmed by Kazo City’s public relations department.

[Interview by Omiya Keizai Shimbun (Japanese)] Wikipedia Town at Saitama Prefectural Omiya High School: deepening regional learning through editing.

The themes for the articles to be written were selected mainly from the respective host schools and their surroundings, including [[ja:埼玉県立大宮高等学校]] (Saitama Prefectural Omiya High School), [[ja:埼玉県立不動岡高等学校]] (Saitama Prefectural Fudoka High School), [[ja:加須うどん (Kazo Udon) and [[ja:總願寺 (Soganji Temple). Materials collected from schools, municipal and prefectural libraries were laid out at the schools where the event was held, and the participating students engaged in editing work while paying attention to what they had learnt in the guidance. The day’s events were covered with videos in the local media and on the municipality’s official SNS, showing the depth of interest in the event. After the event, several students and school officials were interviewed.

Interviews with participating pupils

This time I first learnt that Wikipedia can be edited for the first time. As I researched the topic to edit, I felt that my knowledge was deepening, so I felt that I would like to do it again on another topic. At the same time, because Wikipedia articles can be easily edited, it is important to update them with the correct information and methods, and I hope to be more careful about how I use the internet.

Nonoha TAKATSUGU (Fudoka High School : 11th grade)

In this article, we looked at Seikyun Gakuen (成均学園), the predecessor of the Omiya High School for Girls. The name of the school is said to mean that the students were to achieve all the qualities of a good wife and wise mother in an equal manner. The idea of a ‘good wife and wise mother’ also made me realise that at the time of its foundation, unlike today, there was still the idea that women should do housework rather than work.

Before I participated, I hadn’t had much contact with Wikipedia, so I didn’t really understand what Wikipedia Town was all about. When I heard that I could find out about the history of Omiya High School, I was much more excited about what it was all about and thought it was quite fun. There were a lot of new things I learned as I was researching, and I was kind of like ‘huh (surprised)’. It was fun to participate.

Omiya High School: Aya NAKAMURA (10th grade)

I am in the music club (brass band) and we had a concert and an alumnus came, he is 52 years old senior and he told me about his high school days back then, although there is already a huge age difference. Reading the material, he recalled that he said, “In my time, boys and girls were separated, there were about eight classes of boys and two classes of girls.” I got curious and looked it up.

When I actually looked into it, I found a description of a protest by students who wanted the school to be fully co-educational, and who protested to the advisor of the student council. I had heard that some of them were against it, but I thought that since we were in the same school building, they would still want to be in the same classroom.

When I attended, I realised that I had only been at the high school for a few months, so I knew nothing about the history, but I knew that there was a brief history posted in the corridors of the school, and that there was a description of the integration of the girls’ and boys’ schools. However, it was interesting to learn about the deeper part of the school’s history, such as how the girls’ high school was created and that the boys’ high school was originally connected to the Katakura Silk Cocoon, a commercial facility in Saitama New Urban Centre.

Riko SAKUMA (Omiya High School: 10th grade)

Impressions held by teachers and librarians

The teachers and librarians who participated in the first session from the schools also gave their feedback. Although all of the participants had read Wikipedia before, it was probably an excellent opportunity for them to learn about how to disseminate this information.

The event was organised with the cooperation of many people who had heard about the Wikipedia Town initiative and agreed with the idea of trying it at their school. This time, the main theme was ‘School History’ with the aim of updating the school’s history, and the students were immersed in old documents that they were seeing for the first time with great interest. I think they found it interesting to read not only information from the internet, but also paper documents. There were many things that I myself did not know and many documents that I saw for the first time, so there was a lot to learn. In the future, I would like to link this to fieldwork while walking around the city, and I would also like to convey to the students the appeal of learning about the local area.

Rina TANAKA (Omiya Senior High School: teacher)

I collected material from the school because I wanted to update the Wikipedia article on the school, but I was quite confused by the criteria for secondary sources. In the end, I was relieved to find that I could use out-of-date magazines using city and county histories, but found it difficult to update the school page using Wikipedia’s source criteria. Thanks to the suggestion that primary sources could also be used, everyone was interested not only in paper sources, but also in graduation albums from over 90 years ago and school newspapers that are no longer available. This initiative was a good experience, with the fun and tension of being able to immediately output what we had researched. If there is a next time, I would like them to try updating it with information from the internet. I think it will make a clear difference, as you will be looking at something completely different from paper documents.

Eriko HOZUMI (Oomiya Senior High School: school librarian).

This is the first time we have participated in the Wikipedia Town initiative as a school. Students do not often have the opportunity to read the local history of the area where their school is located. However, this time, I think that the fact that they were ‘updating their own Wikipedia’, which they use on a daily basis, was a great motivation for them to take part in the activity. In fact, they seemed to be more enthusiastic about reading old materials than we had imagined, and there were many new insights and discoveries. In inquiry learning, it is important to know the previous research on the topic first, but I myself felt that it was difficult to give them access to books. I felt that Wikipedia Town was a very good initiative to compensate for this while having fun at the same time. Thank you very much.

Mika ISHIDA (Fudoka High School: teacher).

On the day, I was impressed by the way the students noticed the detailed differences between the materials and discussed them within their groups, even though they dealt with the same subject matter. Through updating Wikipedia, which can be accessed by people all over the world, I feel that the students were able to learn the responsibility, difficulty and satisfaction of communicating accurate information to others. As a librarian, I was happy to see local materials, which are not usually accessible to students, being put to good use. In the future, I expect that by making a good choice between paper and online information depending on the matter I want to research, I can deepen my research even further.

This time, I first learnt that Wikipedia can be edited, and I felt my knowledge deepen as I researched. I would like to do it again, and at the same time, I hope I can be more careful about how I use the internet because it is so easy to edit.

Mina IGUSA (Fudoka Senior High School: school librarian).

For ongoing efforts

The school considered holding a second event to include the transmission of the new coronavirus infection. As a result, it was decided to hold the second event on 23 November. It was decided that a significant number of people would attend. As we did not have enough people to support the writing of Wikipedia on the day of the meeting, we decided to ask for the cooperation of working and university student members of Code for SAITAMA, who are involved in activities related to civic tech in Japan. Those who cooperated enjoyed themselves with the participants and participated as support staff on the day of the event. Some of them had previously written articles for Wikipedia Town in Kumagaya, Saitama Prefecture, and were a great help to the support system on the day.

In the previous event, the format was that teachers, school librarians and Wikipedians were responsible for organising the event, but for the second event, some students from both schools were asked to participate in the management of the event, as there were many high school students who had experience in editing the first event, and the day was run by the high school students themselves. In this way, the aim was to plan, prepare and manage the event so that high school students could enjoy it. In practice, the high school students were responsible for everything from the reception desk on the day of the event, to chairing, preparing manuscripts, collecting materials and deciding on the themes to be covered in the editathon, while teachers and school librarians also accompanied them. Outside of the official meetings, both sides kept in touch with each other using social networking services and made repeated preparations for the day of the event.

In the course of their preparations, they chose [[ja:大湯祭]] (Daito Festival), a festival at the Hikawa Shrine near the Omiya Library in Saitama City, the venue for this event, and [[ja:白井助七]] (Sukeshichi SHIRAI), a person who contributed greatly to the development of Omiya, as the subjects for their articles. When they initially chose this subject matter, the teachers and support staff, including myself, were very anxious about whether we would actually be able to gather the materials and whether we would be able to get to the writing of the article, although there were some adult participants. However, once the town walk was over and they entered the working time, the high school students took the material in their own hands and continued the writing process by asking questions to the adults who participated in the project with them when they did not understand something.

As a result of the respective preparations that were promoted, the event was able to be held face-to-face, but also with the participation of about 30 students and community members from both sides.

File:Wikipedia Town OMIYA vol.1 2022-11-23 (1) as.jpg on / Photo by Araisyohei / CC-BY-SA-4.0

As is the case every time, the editathon is always a race against time, and when the time limit arrives, the writing has to be forcibly terminated. I had thought that the task of how to read through the material and summarise it in writing within that time limit would be a difficult one for high school students. However, it seems that high school students of Generation Z, with their well-developed social networking services, did not feel much rejection in this respect.

Pupils who met for the first time offline seemed to enjoy it a lot. The pupils who presented their impressions said.

  • I went on a town tour and got to know the deep Omiya. I was able to go to a café with my friends, so it was a fulfilling day.
  • It was worthwhile because the students were able to take the initiative in the preparations.
  • I think it will be more fun if we increase the number of participants in the future.

Teachers from the participating schools were also asked for their feedback, which contained many suggestions for the future.

I had heard interesting information from the students so far and was interested in it. I actually took part in it and honestly enjoyed it. I actually liked looking at Wikipedia, and I was impressed by the fact that this is how they make it, but there is not a lot of literature. I was impressed by the fact that everyone participated in making it, that so much effort was put into it, walking around the town of Omiya and reading the documents. It was a time when I recognised a lot of things: making the documents, having them researched and put out.

Fudoka High School: Aya MORI (teacher).

I have spent a long period of time in Omiya, but there was a lot I did not know. There were many new discoveries. I liked the style of learning in which I started to wonder what this was all about and then researched the materials. I felt that investigating what I had walked, asking questions and learning more about it will lead to the future. At the same time, the activities of walking and researching need to continue in the future.

Omiya High School: Chiaki KOJIMA (teacher).

At the venue, they were talking about “the site where information is born”. The morning’s town walk was designed to “broaden our eyes to see the local area”, and tomorrow the students will start their school trip to Kyushu and Sanyo, travelling from place to place. Having a perspective on the history of the area makes life more enjoyable. Commuting to school can also be fun.

Saitama Municipal Urawa High School: Tomoaki Fujishiro (teacher).

Yuko Hasegawa, a university teacher who worked as a librarian at the Prefectural Library and Fudoki, said: ‘Today, local materials have been given new life again by your hands here. Information is born here. The information, which seems to be a single giant, grows in the hands of each and every one of you.” She commented.

in the end

Currently, in Japan, the ‘promotion of lifelong learning‘ for the population, including young people, involves communities and society working together to provide learning opportunities, and the recent development of various projects in collaboration with the Wikimedia Project and GLAM is linked to ‘lifelong learning and the revitalisation of society and local communities’.

Wikipedia Town, a collaboration between Saitama Prefectural Omiya High School and Fudoka High School, the first time held with each school connected online, and the second time held in Omiya Ward, where Omiya High School is located.

When asked about their vision for the next and third round, the teacher in charge of the project said, “In 2023, we would like to hold the event in Kazo City, where the prefectural Fudoka High School is located”. The distance between the two schools is more than 20 km in a straight line and about one hour apart by train. Nevertheless, it would be a very meaningful activity, not only from the perspective of citizenship education, but also from the perspective of peer-to-peer education, for both teachers and students from the two schools to interact, learn and research the history of the town by themselves and publish the information in a Wikipedia article. We believe that building a mechanism to enable such activities to continue could be one of the strategies of the Wikimedia Foundation’s campaign on education. In this context, we will continue to explore what kind of cooperation Wikimedians can or should provide.

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