When preparing for this blogpost, I investigated a number of the different OER repositories that Alec provided to us. This in itself was extremely beneficial to me as an educator, as there were numerous that were brand new to me. Initially, I was drawn to TEDEd, as it was one I had the most familiarity with. However, after seeing some great evaluations already completed by my classmates Curtis and Jocelyn, I decided it would likely be more beneficial to me professionally to dive into something that was new to me, and settled on WikiEducator.
Immediately on opening the website, I was greeted with the recognizable (albeit basic, and arguably dated,) design style of Wikipedia. Although I had not heard of WikiEducator before this post, I (along with a large portion of the internet-connected world,) have spent a great deal of time on various Wikipedia pages. I was amazed at how familiar WikiEducator felt, in my mind largely due to the similar user interface. I assumed, based on the design, that WikiEducator, was a division of the parent company of Wikipedia. I quickly found out that I was completely wrong, as I found under their ‘Technical FAQs,’ section:
“WikiEducator is not a project of the Wikimedia Foundation. Wikipedia and Wikibooks are examples of Wikimedia Foundation projects. WikiEducator uses the MediaWiki software, the same software used to run Wikimedia Foundation projects.”https://wikieducator.org/FAQs#Is_WikiEducator_a_Wikimedia_Foundation_project.3F
Not being affiliated with Wikipedia changed my view on this site greatly. I had to lower my expectations knowing it would be likely impossible for this site to be as vast and as comprehensive as Wikipedia.
Where to Begin?
As I do with many new websites or resources, I thought it would be a good idea to begin with reading through the ‘About’ page. The page discusses multiple focuses, strategies and milestones. However, I found that the image below, taken from the front page of their website, draws a concise summary of the goals of WikiEducator.
WikiEducator describes themselves as “a dedicated global community of scholars, teachers and trainers who are committed to the collaborative authoring / development of open educational resources (OERs). Educators from across the globe are working together to build free OERs that can be used in a variety of teaching situations. These OERs can be re-contextualized and repackaged (outside the WikiEducator development environment) for use in their own teaching and learning situations.” (Source) It is evident when travelling the site that there is a consistent push throughout to plan, develop, and share OERs, while also creating a network of connected professionals. As I continue to learn about OERs, this mentality is something I find extremely encouraging, and also note how closely these values align with the themes of this course. I
The Good (Kind-of)
I love the idea of WikiEducator. I’m of the opinion that OER’s are a near perfect idea of what access to education should look like. In order for OER’s to fulfill their full potential, and increase their use worldwide, I believe we need a centralized hub to house these resources. WikiEducator, and others (see the OER Commons) are attempting to do this with mixed successes.
Last week, I compared using OER’s to paid websites like Teachers Pay Teachers. I believe that teachers gravitate towards a site like TPT, simply due to its high efficiency. Housed in one website, teachers from all over the world can search for resources in nearly any curriculum and get decent quality results almost instantly. Another benefit are the numerous activities tied to Canadian and Saskatchewan outcomes. I explain this, because I believe the OER movement needs a more centralized, better populated, well-designed place to store, share, and find resources similar to the way TPT acts for Teacher created resources. I believe this is what WikiEducator sought out to become, but has unfortunately become hampered by some of the issues in the next paragraph.
As I was exploring the website, I was able to find some pages that were of pretty good quality. The International Finance, and Home Economics sections was broken up into units, modules, and was well planned and organized. However, the majority of these lessons, and others on the site, rely on fairly basic pedagogy- most of which are reading and answering questions. Additionally, these two positive examples were in the minority, as the majority of the topics I explored ran into the issues stated below.
The Not So Good
The majority of the available Content on Wiki Educator is found on the Content page, which unfortunately is not the easiest to find. After looking through multiple different resources, it seemed there were some that that looked well put together, but many were not. I found that the major drawbacks are centered around a lack content in multiple sections, as well as information or lessons that are quite dated for an online environment (10-12 years at times.) Additionally, many of the units or lessons are incomplete, or have missing links. Examples of these issues are extremely evident on pages such as the Primary Education Math Glossary, and Higher Secondary Mathematics (there are certainly more pages that have several issues, but I explored these two in deeper detail.)
The Math Glossary starts well with a great alphabetized list of related math terms. However the issues arise when you start to take a look at any of the specific definitions. A large portion seem to have no data, and all you receive is the following text: “There is currently no text in this page. You can search for this page title in other pages, or search the related logs, but you do not have permission to create this page.” (Source.) The main page of the glossary mentions that they are ‘constantly adding math terms,” but the page has not been updated in nearly 10 years. The ‘Higher Secondary Mathematics,’ section has a unit on Indices and Logarithms that has 10 Lessons. While this is a good start, there are no other units present, and Lessons 4 through 9 have broken links or incomplete information. These pages also ranged from 5-12 years from their last edit. Although I could not find any proof, it appears that the active user base has dropped dramatically in the last 5-10 years.
The Final Say
To me, WikiEducator is a great idea that has fallen short. I truly believe OERs are the future of education, and the need for a large central repository to house these resources is still present. Websites such as the OER Commons are attempting to do this, as WikiEducator has, but I find there is still room to improve. Building the quantity and quality of resources on these websites will increase efficiency for educators, drawing more individuals to access these resources. At this time, I would not be able to recommend WikiEducators to a colleague looking for resources. Other repositories such as the OER Commons or TedEd have a more intuitive design, and a more complete catalog, and are therefore better places to start. However, I may recommend it to someone dedicated to the development of OERs or looking at collaborating on OER related projects. The idea of this site is solid, but I believe in needs to be taken further in order to be effective. Unfortunately, time is always of the essence. A resource that is incomplete, hard to navigate, or contains broken links is essentially a waste of time for educators, and of no use to their students.