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Khan Academy's Smarthistory and Wikipedia collaborate

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By The ed17

To many Wikimedians, the Khan Academy would seem like a close cousin: the academy is a non-profit educational website and a development of the massive open online course concept that has delivered over 227 million lessons in 22 different languages. Its mission is to give "a free, world-class education to anyone, anywhere." This complements Wikipedia's stated goal to "imagine a world in which every single person on the planet is given free access to the sum of all human knowledge", then go and create that world.

It should come as no surprise, then, that the highly successful GLAM-Wiki (galleries, libraries, archives, museums) initiative has partnered with the Khan Academy's Smarthistory project to further both its and Wikipedia's goals.

Smarthistory started as a separate website that aimed to "emphasize the experience of looking at art by using unscripted conversations recorded in front of the work of art whenever possible, by incorporating numerous images and video, and by curating links to high-quality resources on the web." They joined the Khan Academy in October 2011 as a natural extension of their mission.

Collaboration between Smarthistory and Wikipedia was stimulated through the most unlikely forum, a Twitter conversation. According to Beth Harris, one of Smarthistory's co-founders, it started when she tweeted about the general public's tendency to almost exclusively go to Wikipedia instead of museums, if museums do not put their content online. Liam Wyatt, who is a pioneer in the GLAM-Wiki initiative, told the Signpost that he replied saying that the two could work together, even if Smarthistory's non-commercial Creative Commons license could not be changed to suit Wikipedia's more permissive CC-by-SA. Through subsequent emails, the idea of a limited collaboration developed.

Smarthistory shared with Liam a spreadsheet that juxtaposed Smarthistory's videos against their relevant Wikipedia articles. When this was posted on the cultural-partnerships-l mailing list, Peter Weis jumped in to wikify the spreadsheet and put it on-wiki, thus beginning the public partnership.

The Signpost asked Smarthistory's co-founders (Beth Harris and Steven Zucker) and Smallbones, who also played a major role in forming the project, what the goals of the Smarthistory–Wikipedia collaboration are, and where the results of this might be applied in other areas. From the Smarthistory side, Harris and Zucker are looking for a complement to the "critical, interpretive method that is central to our work"; they point out that Wikipedia's style and content meet that perfectly, fulfilling their goal. They said they are far from the only ones providing these sorts of open educational resources, and that there are many GLAMs out there with excellent text and video content that are ripe for collaboration. The problem, of course, is that not all GLAMs see the value in distributing their content around the Internet, though Harris and Zucker are confident that they will come around.

Smallbones, replying from the Wikipedian perspective, said that the project was about improving Wikipedia by using the reliable content uploaded by Smarthistory, and he hopes the project will move beyond simple {{external media}} links and will use Smarthistory as a reference within articles. To Smallbones, this is an especially important area in which to collaborate:

There are pitfalls, though. Both Liam Wyatt and Smallbones told the Signpost that the challenge is to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest. Wyatt said he made clear that there was "no 'deal' or promise to link" to any Smarthistory videos, and Smallbones said that even the potential of being seen as "spamming" the videos is something to watch. He believes that the way around this is to encourage participants to consider including a Smarthistory video as a citation in place of a [citation needed] tag, or as the referenced cornerstone of a new article.

Looking forward, Smallbones said that there is much relatively easy work left to do, and "anybody can take the basic concept of using Smarthistory resources and run with it as far as they want to go." Harris and Zucker expressed similar feelings, as they look for the collaboration to grow as they continue to produce new videos and essays each week. As this content is being translated into many different languages, they are hopeful that other Wikipedias will join the Smarthistory–Wikipedia collaboration.

In brief

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Thanks for a good article on the Wikipedia:GLAM/smarthistory collaboration. This is a project that's still developing and may set a precedent on how Wikipedia deals with massive open online courses and similar projects. If you want to help develop this area in the right way, please just click the project link above and join in. Smallbones(smalltalk) 21:09, 30 January 2013 (UTC)[reply]

Smallbones is so right about it being difficult sometimes to properly cite basic interpretation because it's so obvious — no right-minded academic after all would care to devote their essay to first principles. Hope this collaboration helps. MasterOfHisOwnDomain (talk) 10:45, 31 January 2013 (UTC)[reply]


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