Monthly Report, February 2018


  • We had our all-staff meeting in February, one of two such events throughout the year. It was a great opportunity to discuss the organization’s future strategic direction in general and begin our annual planning process for next year.
  • George Mason University Visiting Scholar Gary Greenbaum brought the article on U.S. President James K. Polk up to Featured Article status this month. It’s an article that receives a lot of traffic; good work Gary!
  • Product Manager Sage Ross made several key behind-the-scenes reliability improvements to the Dashboard this month. The Dashboard now uses a more reliable email system — laying the groundwork for future improvements in surveys, announcements, and notifications for instructors and students. Volunteer contributors, aspiring summer interns, and our current Outreachy intern have also made notable contributions, including a way for the Dashboard to monitor Good Article Nominations.
  • Director of Development and Strategy TJ Bliss attended the National Summit for Democracy in DC, where he discussed the role that Wikipedia has and can play in driving fact-based decision-making. He held several conversations with potential funders who are interested in the work that Wiki Education is doing to promote information literacy and improve the fact-base on Wikipedia.



Educational Partnerships

Educational Partnerships Manager Jami Mathewson attended the Ocean Sciences Meeting, a venue for marine scientists to share knowledge and research across disciplines, including geology, physics, and chemistry. The meeting is co-hosted by the American Geophysical Union (AGU), The Oceanography Society (TOS), and the Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography (ASLO), whose members’ lives and careers are dedicated to understanding and conserving the world’s largest ecosystem. She spoke with dozens of university instructors, graduate students, undergraduates, and industry professionals, and the ethos toward Wikipedia was overwhelmingly positive. One researcher “confessed” to reading Wikipedia as a quick refresher on topics related to his research, and another instructor even remarked that Wikipedia is “one of the great things of the information age.” We’re actively looking for more geology and oceanography students to improve Wikipedia, making information about the earth more readily accessible to its inhabitants, and we look forward to working with these new program participants.

Wiki Education hosted a booth at the National Association of African American Studies & Affiliates 2018 Joint National Conference.

Outreach Manager Samantha Weald spent a week in Dallas at the National Association of African American Studies & Affiliates Joint National Conference. The event is co-hosted by the National Association of African American Studies, the National Association of Hispanic and Latino Studies, the National Association of Native American Studies, and the International Association of Asian Studies. Attendees came to present about and discuss African, African-American, Hispanic, Latinx, Asian, Native American, and Indigenous culture and history. With our commitment to growing and disseminating research related to these histories, this conference enabled us to recruit diverse content and voices for our programs and for Wikipedia.

In February, we continued our efforts to engage more potential instructors with a webinar, joining the York College, City University of New York faculty at their three-day Wikipedia-focused event. The faculty are interested in expanding CUNY engagement on Wikipedia, and we are excited to collaborate with them as they bring more instructors into the Classroom Program. Thank you to Greet Van Belle for coordinating the events and bringing everyone together to learn more about how Wiki Education supports instructors and students as they improve Wikipedia.


Classroom Program

Status of the Classroom Program for Spring 2018 in numbers, as of February 28:

  • 327 Wiki Education-supported courses had course pages (183, or 56%, were led by returning instructors)
  • 5,483 student editors were enrolled
  • 53.8% students successfully completed the online training
  • Students edited 2,360 articles, created 101 new entries, and added 590,000 words

Enrollment continued to surge in February. Students have started contributing, and Wikipedia has more than 100 new articles thanks to these contributions! Wikipedia Content Experts Ian Ramjohn and Shalor Toncray have fielded several excellent questions about tone, length of article, and writing style on Wikipedia. Program Manager Will Kent continued to offer office hours in February. He was consistently impressed with the caliber of questions and the personal investment from instructors and students alike. Will also had the opportunity to visit a few local classrooms this month, a wonderful opportunity to see students in action and troubleshoot some of the more difficult parts of the assignment.

Student work highlights:

Shalor and Ian have been pleased with the quality of student contributions so far. For many classes we’re just getting started, but we already have some amazing new content, from the improvement of psychology articles to entirely new articles about women in cinema. Keep up the good work, everyone!

Here are some recently-expanded and brand new articles:

Time travel might be possible for an alien doctor who can travel to any place or time, but humanity can only experience the past via media such as films, artwork, and books. Students in Katherine Holt’s Modern Brazil class with The College of Wooster chose to examine how the past impacts the future by assisting in the creation and expansion of the Wikipedia’s article on the 1578 book History of a Voyage to the Land of Brazil, which covers Huguenot Jean de Léry’s experiences living in a Calvinist colony in the Guanabara Bay in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and later with the Tupinambá Indians. Staying with the Indians gave the author access to the tribespeople’s daily lives, which he faithfully recorded in his account. Some of the things he was privileged to witness were likely parts of the Tupinambá Indians’ lives that people outside of the tribe rarely got to witness in part or full, which is why the text is regarded as a highly significant work for multiple disciplines. It’s worth noting that de Léry’s time spent with the Tupinamba people did give him a substantial fright during a trip to a village that was currently in the middle of a celebration. When he realized that part of the celebration involved cooking and eating a prisoner, de Léry chose not to participate. While he was resting in his bed one of the Tupinamba came to offer him the prisoner’s foot! As de Léry did not speak the Tupinamba people’s language and his interpreter was not available, he mistook the person’s actions to mean that he was going to be the next person to get eaten – something that was clarified by morning. Prior to the class’s improvements the article was a two sentence stub created by their instructor and lacked information about the book’s content, context, or historic legacy. Thanks to these students the book’s importance to fields such as anthropology, history, and even biology and geology is clear, due to the amount of detail in de Léry’s accounts.

When it comes to size, Jedi Master Yoda put it best: “Judge me by my size, do you?” Even on Wikipedia, smaller contributions can still make a huge impact when it comes to editing. One student in UC Berkeley professor David Harris’s Civic Technology course noticed that the article for digital literacy needed improvements. They specifically paid attention to the term’s definition in the article’s opening — which is typically the first thing that someone will read when opening a page on Wikipedia, or what will appear in Google’s Knowledge Graph on the search results page. While the prior version wasn’t exactly incorrect, it wasn’t necessarily the best and most accurate way to describe the concept of digital literacy. They changed the opening to better define how digital literacy is the set of skills and knowledge needed for a person to fully participate in a technologically based society. It’s a small edit, but better clarifies the point to incoming readers hungry for knowledge, showing proof that “Size matters not.”

When we see an image, it’s reasonable to assume that we remember less than we actually saw. It can be surprising to discover that we may remember more than we saw. When shown a tightly cropped image, people’s memories often extend the margins of the image, and remember things that weren’t actually there. Boundary extension is the name given to this phenomenon. A student in Greta Munger’s History of Psychology class took the short, stubby article that existed in Wikipedia and expanded it into a substantial article that looks at this in depth. Comic book therapy uses comic books in the rehabilitation process. People either create comic books as a therapeutic exercise, or read and discuss comic books and graphic novels that discuss similar experiences and diagnoses. Here again, a student in the class expanded a short Wikipedia article into a much more detailed exploration of the topic.

One student in the class created a new article about high performance organization. Others made major expansions to a range of articles including maturation and environmentalism, which discusses two competing models for the way in which children acquire cognitive skills, music therapy for Alzheimer’s disease, and the psychological concept of adjustment.

Students in Kathryn Haas’ Women in STEM class have been helping to fill gaps in Wikipedia’s coverage by creating and expanding articles about women in fields related to science, technology, and medicine. The contributions of women in these fields in the 19th and early 20th century is often overlooked, and a lack of coverage exacerbates that problem. Margaret MacDonald was a Canadian nurse who was one of the first women to hold a high-ranking position in the Canadian military. Emily Fortey was a British chemist who worked as a researcher between 1896 and 1904 before leaving science to pursue a career in politics. Martha Austin Phelps was an American chemist best known for her work on arsenic who completed her Ph.D. in 1898. Charlotte Fairbanks earned a Ph.D. from Yale before becoming a medical doctor in 1902. These are just a few of the many articles that this class worked on.

In the University of California Santa Cruz professor Minghui Hu’s History of Qing China class, two of her students decided to try their hand at uploading images to Wikimedia Commons. One uploaded an image of Fan WenCheng, a Chinese minister who served as an adviser during the Qing dynasty, while the other added an image of a white domesticated rabbit eating some freshly washed lettuce. Animals proved to be a popular upload choice with other classes as well, as a Paradise Valley Community College student in Paula Crossman’s IFS201-25138 took the opportunity to upload a photograph of a sacred cow roaming Tian Tan Buddha square.

Fan WenCheng, a Chinese minister who served as an adviser during the Qing dynasty. Uploaded to Commons by a student.
Image: File:Fan WenCheng.jpg, public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.
White domesticated rabbit eating some freshly washed lettuce. Uploaded to Commons by a student.
Image: File:History140B许安.jpg, 李许安, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons.
A sacred cow roaming Tian Tan Buddha square. Uploaded to Commons by a student.
Image: File:Big Buddha Sacred Cow.jpg, Cisca657, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

Community Engagement

This month Community Engagement Manager Ryan McGrady announced an exciting new Visiting Scholars opportunity at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, through the Department of African, Middle Eastern, and South Asian Languages and Literatures. A Wikipedian interested in using Rutgers’ resources to write about endangered languages would gain access to the university library’s databases, ebooks, and digitized collections, as well as resources through its affiliate library at Beth Mardutho: The Syriac Institute.

Viewers of the Comedy Central program Drunk History learned about the 504 Sit-in this month, a 1977 demonstration for the civil rights of people with disabilities. Anyone who went to Wikipedia to read more about it encountered an article created by San Francisco State University Visiting Scholar, Jackie Koerner.

George Mason University Visiting Scholar Gary Greenbaum brought the article on U.S. President James K. Polk up to Featured Article status. This is the latest in a series of Featured Articles about United States Presidents — articles which receive thousands of page views every day. The Polk article, for example, has been viewed more than 80,000 times just in the past month.

James K. Polk
Image: James Polk restored.jpg, by Matthew Brady (restored by Superwikifan), public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Rosie Stephenson-Goodknight has been busy writing about women writers as Visiting Scholar at Northeastern University. This month her biographies included Mary Mapes Dodge (1831-1905), a popular American children’s author known for the novel Hans Brinker, and Mary C. Ames (1831-1884), who received the largest ever salary paid to a newspaper woman up to that time.

Mary C. Ames
Image: Mary Clemmer Hudson from American Women, 1897.jpg, author unknown, public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Barbara Page is one of Wikipedia’s most active editors. As Visiting Scholar at the University of Pittsburgh she has created or significantly improved hundreds of articles. This month she continued this work, starting and extensively developing the vaginal epithelium article, the aglandular inner lining of the vagina consisting of multiple layers of squamous cells.

We were very happy with the progress our Wikipedia Fellows have been making this month, as they begin to make substantial edits to Wikipedia. For example, Jenn Brandt, one of the Fellows affiliated with the National Women’s Studies Association, significantly expanded and reorganized the article about award-winning author Margaret Atwood. R.G. Cravens, representing the Midwest Political Science Association, expanded the article about LGBT conservatism in the United States, adding a new history section and improving its sources. Michael Ramirez, who comes to Wikipedia Fellows through the American Sociological Association, has been making several improvements to the masculinity article, adding material about the social construction of masculinity and improving the section on nature vs. nurture aspects of the subject.

Margaret Atwood
Image: Margaret Atwood 2015.jpg, by Larry D. Moore, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons.


Program Support


Executive Director Frank Schulenburg and Director of Programs and Deputy Director LiAnna Davis participated in a series of radio interviews about Wiki Education’s Classroom Program this month, along with local participating faculty and students. Two of Frank’s interviews, with Florida radio stations WLRN (find the whole segment here) and WMNF ran in February. LiAnna’s segment, with California station KPFK, was scheduled to run in March.

We featured six testimonials by instructors in our Classroom Program on our blog this month, reflecting on the Fall 2017 term. Dr. J. Wesley Leckrone discusses the importance of his political science students learning how to write in a non-biased manner. Dr. Deborah Stine shares why 85% of her public policy students prefer a Wikipedia assignment over a traditional executive summary assignment. Dr. Kathleen Crowther stresses the importance of increasing Wikipedia’s coverage of women in medical fields. Gerald R. Lucas explains why he believes Wikipedia to be the most successful Digital Humanities project to date. Longtime Classroom Program participant Dr. Joan E. Strassmann shares some secrets of teaching with Wikipedia that she’s learned over the years. And Dr. Edward Benoit, III writes about the global reach of a Wikipedia assignment. We take perspectives from instructors into account when improving our resources and support, and love to hear that so many are eager to share stories about their experience.

Blog posts:

External blog posts:

Digital Infrastructure

In February, we made a slew of changes to the Dashboard to make it more effective for people organizing and supporting large-scale Wikipedia editing programs — relevant for both Wiki Education staff and the Wikimedia program leaders using the global community Dashboard Volunteer contributors, aspiring summer interns, and our current Outreachy intern have been very busy, and several of their contributions are worth calling out. Amit Joki added the ability for the Dashboard to monitor for Good Article Nominations on English Wikipedia. Jacob Stoebel built an administrative Settings interface, which allows us to more easily manage admin roles and will be a foundation for managing other settings and system-wide features as well. Pratyush Singhal simplified the development setup process, created our first automated setup script for new developers to set up their environments quickly, and fixed a wide range of small bugs as well. Outreachy intern Candela Jiménez Girón shipped a pair of major features in support of the Art+Feminism 2018 campaign: the ability to create new Wikipedia accounts directly from the Dashboard, and a new system for rapid statistics updates for short events like edit-a-thons.

Sage made several key behind-the-scenes reliability improvements this month. The Wiki Education Dashboard now uses a more reliable email system that can handle larger volumes of email, laying the groundwork for improving the email capabilities of the Dashboard for surveys, announcements, and better email notifications and reminders for instructors and students. Sage also re-engineered the system for fetching and storing training module content and translations for the global community Dashboard, which — even after short-term fixes in January — was strained beyond its breaking point with the volume of translated training modules. We expect it to be considerably more reliable now, even with further increased usage.


Finance & Administration / Fundraising

Finance & Administration

For the month of February, the total expenses were $174,000 versus the budgeted $240,000. This variance of ($66K) is expected, ($55K) reduction in Programs due to reduction in Payroll and the Research and Engagement program. And ($12K) under budget in Governance, as the Board meetings budgeted for February occurred December and January. The gap in the Programs budget is also due to project hiring for Guided Editing, which was budgeted for the beginning of January, but has not yet been spent. We will not begin that spending until we receive the grant for the project, as indicated in our plan.

The year-to-date expenses of $1,252,000 were under the budgeted amount of $1,545,000 by ($293,000). For the most part, Governance is on track, just ($2K) short of budget YTD. As expected, Programs is the most under budget due to changes in budgeted personnel ($70K), Professional Services ($98K), Travel ($24K), Associated marketing costs ($8K), administrative costs ($9K) and indirect costs associated with a lowered occupancy ($20K). Fundraising is under budget ($20K) YTD due to a shortage in Travel in December/ January, but is on track for the month of February. General and Administrative has been under budget due to Personnel changes at the end of Q2 and has not quite picked back up, as expected in the budget and is still under budget YTD by ($42K).


In January, we began seeking smaller “sponsorship” grants for the 40 or so specific topic areas that we support via our Classroom Program (e.g. biology, women’s studies, anthropology, etc.). In this fundraising approach, we are hoping to attract funders who care deeply about specific topic areas and help them see the importance of ensuring Wikipedia’s coverage of these topics is improved. We are excited to announce that this month we received our first topic sponsorship grant: a $50,000 donation from Craig Newmark Philanthropies for Women’s Studies. This one-year grant will support about 200 students to edit Wikipedia articles in ten different Women’s Studies courses. We also began sending requests for sponsorships to other potential funders in key areas that we focus on in our Classroom Program, including anthropology, art/art history, astronomy, and physics.

At the end of February, TJ traveled to Washington DC to attend the National Summit for Democracy. During this meeting, people from around the country and from all political sides worked together on crafting recommendations for defending and strengthening democratic norms and institutions. A key part of this conversation related to the role of media, accountability, and facts in a functioning democracy. Many people, including TJ, raised the need for improving information literacy among citizens and the role that Wikipedia does and can play in driving fact-based decision-making. During this summit and in other meetings in DC, TJ held several important conversations with potential funders who are interested in the work that Wiki Education is doing to promote information literacy and improve the fact-base on Wikipedia.


Office of the ED

Current priorities:

  • Running a successful all-staff meeting
  • Streamlining internal processes
  • Improving staff safety and disaster preparedness
Ryan at all-staff.

One of the highlights of the month of February was our all-staff meeting in San Francisco. These meetings happen twice a year and the February meeting traditionally serves as a starting point for our annual planning process. This year was special insofar as we’ve all been involved in creating our new strategic plan for 2018–2021. The many discussions we had around the future strategic direction of Wiki Education provided us with enough ideas and food for thought with regard to next year’s plan. Also, as part of the all-staff meeting, we engaged in mapping out our organization’s capacity and robustness in different areas. Our discussions around these topics weren’t just an informative exercise for everybody on staff, the results will also add to a global capacity map of the Wikimedia universe. Other than that, we held a number of different peer-learning sessions (e.g. a Salesforce training organized by Jami) and optional social events (e.g. the traditional “Mission Burrito Night” at LiAnna’s house).

Staff during the first aid training.

Also in February, we hosted two safety and disaster preparedness trainings. During the first training session, staff learned how to provide basic first-aid, including how to do cardiopulmonary resuscitation and how to use an automated external defibrillator. A week later, our instructor talked us through what to do in case of a disaster like an earthquake, a fire, or a tsunami. We all know that the “big one” may hit California during our lifetime, and we feel much better prepared for different emergency situations.


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