CoLang 2016

Wikis and Wikipedia for Endangered Languages


Gretchen McCulloch

Lauren Gawne


Course materials

Slides and other resources will be distributed during the course.

Bring any materials that you have about your language, including grammars and dictionaries. These can be on paper or digital.  

Supplies needed

Participants will need to bring a laptop, no special software is needed. Participants should have basic computer skills (word processing, making an online account, looking up references). No linguistics background needed, and no experience of editing Wikipedia is needed. Participants should have a specific language they are interested in improving the page

Course goals

Wikipedia is the seventh most-visited site on the internet, and yet many of its articles about smaller languages are woefully incomplete — from only a few sentences long to a few paragraphs of uneven quality, without references. This workshop will give participants the skills to work with Wikipedia, and other projects that use wiki formatting. Participants will learn how to edit information about their languages in dominant languages, and how to start Wikipedia in your own language.

Student learning objectives

There are four main student learning objectives:

  1. Learn about the Wikipedia model, and how to use the interface
  2. Learn how to edit information about your language in English Wikipedia
  3. Learn how to use Wikipedia to work on your own projects
  4. Learn about using the Wikipedia Incubator to make a Wikipedia in your own language

Instructional methods

This course will be taught with very short introductory talks for each topic, followed by a demonstration on a laptop linked to a projector that participants can follow along with on their own devices. This will be followed by a hands-on session where the skills learned will be used to edit and create content on Wikipedia. For this reason we have two facilitators running the class, so that participants can get targeted assistance during the activity section. 

General lesson plan

Day 1: Basics of wikis

What participants' goals are, what the wiki platform is, making an account on Wikipedia, making your first edit (on your user page), using wiki markup and VisualEditor.

Day 2: Editing your language's article on the English Wikipedia

What type of material goes in a language article, Wikipedia's norms about editing (such as which sources Wikipedia considers authoritative), making a minor edit, adding a citation, making sections, making a major edit.

Day 3: Creating and managing a wiki for your own projects

Wikis as a platform are a free and open-source tool that allows many people to edit a set of documents, such as notes from a field methods class, a grammar, a dictionary, or a collection of stories. We'll discuss the pros and cons of setting up a wiki for your own projects, how to manage user accounts and get people to edit, organizing an editathon, and what the technical options are for making your own wiki.

Day 4: Wikipedia in your language using Wikipedia Incubator

Wikipedia exists in 288 languages — if yours isn't one of them, you can get together a group of speakers to create it through Wikipedia Incubator. We'll check for Wikipedia Incubator projects in the languages of interest to participants and talk about the steps involved in getting a Wikipedia from idea to full-fledged Wikipedia. (Depending on interests, we may also or instead explore relevant WikiProjects — groups for Wikipedia editors with specific interests, such as WikiProject:Languages and WikiProject:Endangered Languages, on large-language Wikipedias.)


Full attendance is required for this workshop. To meet the evaluation requirements students will create a Wikipedia profile and edit the information on at least one relevant Wikipedia article. Students will also need to read the page edited by another student and given them feedback/edits on the work.

Creative Commons

Wikipedia is a free and open access publication, so content that is contributed there must be cited to a reliable secondary source (such as a grammar) and is licensed under a creative commons attribution license. Students' contributions to Wikipedia for this course will be publically accessible and contribute to the wealth of Wikipedia’s knowledge about the world’s languages. More about sourcing and licensing on Wikipedia will be explained in the course.


The Office of Disability Services implements the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and insures that UAF students have equal access to the campus and course materials. The instructor will work with the Office of Disabilities Services (208 WHIT, 474-5655) to provide reasonable accommodation to students with disabilities.


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