Train The Trainer 2017

Posted by Manasa Rao at Mar 15, 2017 12:00 AM |

 

The Centre for Internet and Society’s Access to Knowledge program conducted its annual flagship event, Train The Trainer(TTT), between 19 to 22 February, 2017 at Jayamahal Palace, Bengaluru. The three day residential workshop focussed on training participants to develop the skills and attributes required for conducting events and outreach activities while also, eventually, taking on leadership roles within their respective language communities. The aim of the program is to groom such leadership skills among the Indian Wikimedia community members. 19 participants from nine different language communities from the Indian subcontinent attended the workshop.

The pre-event session on the evening of the 19th consisted of fun games for participants to break the ice and get to know one another. As the evening wound down, the participants, who were invited to bring sweets and savouries from their cities and towns, set up a sweets table. This activity was inspired from Wikimedia Deutschland's candy table at Wikimedia Conference 2015. The idea is to hold an exciting sweet tasting session as the participants attend the workshop. Participants enthusiastically shared trivia about the delicacies they brought to the event and exchanged notes on the various recipes.

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Sweets table at TTT 2017/ Image By Manasa Rao/ CC-BY-SA 4.0

Day 1: Introductory discussions, event planning & WikiConference India case study

The first day of the workshop started with a welcome address from the organisers and a  formal introductory session for all those present. The participants introduced themselves and spoke about the one Wikipedian they are most inspired by. This was a platform for both participants and organisers to understand each other and their motivation to be a part of the free knowledge movement. Participants also shared the nature of their work on Wikimedia and their pet projects. Most importantly, they spoke about the challenges they have overcome in their journey as a Wikipedian. Pabitra Kumar Panda(User:pkp05) of Odia Wikipedia spoke about how he began editing Wikipedia on his phone using public hotspots in his city(Puri). “I love editing Wikipedia so much that I used to sit for hours together and edit on the street using the wi-fi available. I completely lost track of time,” he said. Another participant, Sumita Roy(User: Sumita Roy Dutta), spoke of how she learned to combine her love for trekking and Wikipedia. She uploads extensively categorised photos on Wikimedia Commons from every trek in order to help potential trekkers or travellers who may wander off the beaten path in the Himalayas.

 

The interaction gradually transitioned into an activity where participants were asked to present their expectations over the next few days and for the year ahead. Participants were divided into five groups with one CIS-A2K team member at each table to facilitate discussions or clarify doubts. Sanskrit Wikipedian Sidharth Dhodapkar(User:Siddharthdhodapkar) pointed out that while focussing on language communities is important, general outreach activities should also be conducted simultaneously so as to not miss out languages like Sanskrit that are rarely spoken today. Suyash Dwivedi(User:Suyash.dwivedi), an active contributor to Wikimedia Commons, stated that the need of the hour was localisation of global best practices that serve as a guideline for volunteers across Indic language Wikipedias.

 

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Participants presenting their group projects/ Image By Indrajit Das/ CC-BY-SA 3.0

 Notably, many participants brought up the need for a more concentrated Wikipedia effort in the domain of education in India. Paramjit Singh(User:param munde), a school teacher from Punjab explained how his students would stand to benefit from a reliable learning platform available online. “We need to explore ways by which we can convert Wikipedia articles into basic educational resources at the school level, keeping Indic languages in mind,” he said. Frederick Noronha(User:Fredericknoronha), a journalist from Panaji and English Wikipedia contributor, urged the participants to tap into digital resources already made available by the National Council of Educational Research and Training. Adding to that, Dr. Manavpreet Kaur, Punjabi Wikipedian and forensic scientist, said that students can be taught animal kingdoms, for example, with the help of “Categories” (of photos) on Wikimedia Commons. Reiterating the need for expert knowledge on subjects, Ramakrishna Reddy Palagiri(User: Palagiri) pointed out that these subject expert articles must be translated across the Indic language Wikipedias. These interactions helped the CIS-A2K team understand the various ways in which we can expand our support providing infrastructure to the Indic language communities.

The first master class session began with CIS-A2K team members, Tanveer Hasan and Tito Dutta, talking about Wikimedia Foundation grants. They elaborated on the two types of grants offered by WMF: individual grants and grants for groups and organisations. They answered questions about the practical nature of processing the grants and the expenses covered by these grants. Participants seemed most interested in the procedure of applying to and receiving the Rapid Project Grant that is commonly requested for edit-a-thons, contests, equipments and events, with a funding of USD 1500- 2000 approximately. 

This was followed by a session on “Essentials of Conducting an Event” by long time Wikipedian (Retd.) Col. Ashwin Baindur. The session mapped the connect between the spirit of conducting an event and the logistical challenges trainers and volunteers must be prepared to face. He pointed out that professional administrative support and preparedness leads to Wikipedians feeling a sense of purpose. He related a quote from his personal experience and said, “the more you sweat in peace(i.e.planning and preparation), the less you bleed in war(i.e. the actual event). Participants were glad the presentation touched upon new topics such as generating enthusiasm through pre-work, dividing participants into groups so as to facilitate healthy exchanges and following up with sharing of the event’s documentary resources and feedback.

The day came to an end with Dr. Manavpreet Kaur’s presentation on WikiConference India. She put forth a case study on how they prepared for and conducted the pan India event in 2016. This presentation went through the administrative process and challenges as well as tips that helped conduct such a large scale conference.

 

Day 2: Excursion to Cubbon Park & the Wikipedian’s ethos

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Participants at Cubbon Park/ Image By Manasa Rao/ CC-BY-SA 4.0

The second day involved an excursion for the participants who were geared up to go to Cubbon Park, Bangalore. This was a nature walk conducted by long time Wikipedian, Shyamal Lakshminarayan(User:Shyamal). The organic discussions that took place during the excursion surrounded conducting photo-thons and GLAM activities that drew on local heritage and biodiversity. The participants visited the Government Museum near the park and Shyamal explained the importance of knowing about the available resources of knowledge for every Wikipedian. “It’s cheaper to put wrong information on the web, so physically visiting libraries to find relevant information will help you judge the credibility of a source,” he said. At the late afternoon session back at the conference venue, participants were introduced to the Internet Archive while Col. Baindur helped the participants understand easy reference templates. Participants were even taught hacks that they could use to cultivate new editors. For example, while uploading Commons images with different categories is important, someone who doesn’t know how to do it may still upload the images with the basic categories so that other users may add detailed categories. A new Wikimedian may initially find this useful as he/she is learning the ropes. Reflecting on the morning’s excursion, the participants were encouraged to ponder on the more philosophical question: how does knowledge on Wikipedia reflect the reality around us? 

Day 3: Global Initiatives, Gender Gap Bridging on Indic Wikipedias & Feedback

The final day of Train The Trainer 2017 began with a masterclass on global initiatives that the participants could learn from and adapt to their communities. Some of the methodologies for improving community consultation were discussed such as needs assessment, outreach activities and surveys. The participants (who would all ideally be prepared to take on the role of trainers) were introduced to Learning Patterns and how they could document the lessons they have learned regardless of the outcome of their event. Another global strategy, global engagement, was also discussed in detail. Participants were asked to make the fullest use of traditional and social media in promoting their events, whether online or offline. Participants were introduced to Share-A-Fact, an inbuilt option on the Wikipedia mobile application which allows the sharing of any sentence or phrase as per the reader’s choice from a Wikipedia article onto any social media or email application. This is imposed over a photo from the article along with a link to the article itself. Participants who were active on social media pointed out that the social media handle of CIS-A2K team had shared these quick facts during the excursion the previous day.

 

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Ravi Ayakannu conducting a session on photo contests/ Image By Indrajit Das/ CC-BY-SA 3.0

Following this, Ravi Ayakannu, long time Tamil Wikipedia community member held a session on conducting photo contests such as Wiki Loves Monuments and Wiki Loves Food. He explained that these are held online and help keep the volunteers motivated without requiring their physical presence. Mr. Ayakannu advised the participants to be inclusive in their approach to awarding best photos such as awards for diversity, creativity, etc. He suggested that organisers must give themselves ample time before adjudging the photos and the organisers could involve someone from Commons. "These contests would also get professional non-Wikimedian photographers involved and hence produce high quality images", he added. For promoting the photo contest, Mr. Ayakannu suggested site banners on Wikipedia.

The final session of the workshop was on Wikipedia and Women. Ting Yi Chang, CIS-A2K research intern, working on exploring ways to bridge the gender gap on Indian Wikipedias conducted the session. Participants were introduced to global initiatives for bridging both the women-related content and male to female editor ratio gap on Wikipedia. While speaking on her soon to be published gender gap bridging toolkit(inspired by User:Keilana's Systemic bias kit) for Indic Wikipedias, Ting Yi noted, "women are not periphery subjects and we must avoid treating it as such." Participants appeared interested to learn about projects such as Women in Red that makes an effort to add women-related content on Wikipedia. The session also reminded participants to organize community events during commemorative events such as Women's History Month in March. The following are a few global initiatives on Gender Gap Bridging:

1. Women's History Month

2. Art and Feminism

3. Wiki Women's User Group

 

The session was followed by activities that were aimed at sensitizing the participants and urging them to think critically on issues they could potentially face as organizers, both on and off wiki, regarding the participation of women or women-related content. The session came to an end with a free-wheeling discussion among participants about the various scenarios, biases and mindsets they need to be aware of while attempting to bridge the gender gap on Wikipedia and related projects.

As the three day event drew to a close, the participants shared some of their key takeaways and follow-up action points which included cross-community collaborations and mentorship at least at the regional level, encouraging informal/ semi-formal opportunities for community members to mingle and share their ideas with one another among others.

To watch videos of the event, please click here.

 

 

 

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