Sometimes the stars align and one can combine something one loves with what pays the bills. This is what is happening to me this fall semester with Wikipedia and the teaching of English.
I’ve worked to promote Wikipedia as a way to improve language skills, but it hadn´t received much traction. This semester, I proposed a Wikipedia Club at my university, ITESM-Campus Ciudad de México, and it has been a hit! Thirty five students have signed up, at least three departments (languages, communications and journalism) have pledged support, we had our first event, a “translate a thon” last 20 August, and I now mentor about ten students who are working with Wikipedia either for partial credit or, in the case of four students, independent study for their last English class.
The network of organizations behind Wikipedia is what draws interest to the Club and working with Wikipedia as a school project. Grade inflation and other factors have made getting the degree only the most basic requirement for getting work after graduation. Students need ways to enhance their résumés and create contacts before leaving school in order to stand out from the multitude that also have a sheepskin in their hand. Wish I had learned this a long time ago!
Working with Wikipedia and Wikimedia offers opportunity for students in many different majors, from technical fields, law, business and straight up humanities as the “wiki-world” not only needs people to do research and writing, but also to promote, sort out disputes and improve the dang wiki-code!
In countries such as Mexico, where learning a second language is extremely important but hard to “sell” to students, the international nature of Wikimedia is a great way to demonstrate the opportunities that speaking English, French, German, etc. offers to them. Most don´t even realize the interest the world has in Mexico!