Wikipedia exercise immerses French students in real-world learning


University of Victoria French students recently took up the challenge of editing the world’s largest online encyclopedia as part Wikipedia’s National Contribution Month.

Professor Catherine Caws’s class of fourth-year French students put their language skills to good use recently in the Canada-wide Wiki-edit-a-thon event, which they participated in on Oct. 29.

The students worked in pairs to edit grammar and cross-reference dictionaries, as well as to add hyperlinks and information to the Wikipedia pages about participative culture or culture participative.

“We are the only school on Vancouver Island to participate in this national event,” Caws said. “Language learning is a process. By using the language in a real situation, in the end it’s going to help them.”

Caws visited Austria this fall to lead workshops on digital literacies for the teaching and learning of languages at the European Centre for Modern Languages. Caws and a fellow workshop facilitator from the University of Ottawa joined a team of four scholars from four European countries.

They ran a two-day workshop on how teachers can incorporate digital technology into their teaching practice, hence embedding digital literacies into language learning. Participants came from 34 different European countries, representing 12 different languages, for the European-funded project led by Professor Christian Ollivier of University of La Réunion.

Caws, whose research focuses on computer-assisted language learning, said blogs and microblogs, such as Twitter, Reddit, and Instagram, offer teachers the chance to immerse learners in real-world tasks.

“You evaluate how they connect with other users, so students aren’t just interacting with the teacher,” Caws said. “The reason we learn a language is to communicate with others in real life situations.”

FRAN 400 student Emily Candell said that besides applying her language skills, she learned how to edit Wikipedia during the Wiki-edit-a-thon.

“It’s helpful looking at a Francophones’ grammatical syntax and learning from them,” she said.

Digital scholarship librarian Matthew Huculak, a former postdoctoral fellow in the English department, gave students a talk about digital scholarship during the class, which was held in the Digital Scholarship Commons at UVic’s McPherson Library.