Thursday, July 30, 2009

Wikipedia for Schools

The 2008/09 Wikipedia for Schools is a recent initiative which offers free, hand-checked, non-commercial selections from the regular Wikipedia which are useful for English speaking students because articles are targeted around the UK National Curriculum.

The project is designed to help the education of poor and rural communities in India and Africa. SOS Children UK, in coordination with the Wikimedia Foundation wanted to make the content free for those areas which lack Internet access. SOS Children, a British charity allows for downloading onto a DVD which can store the 5500 articles; it is equivalent to a twenty volume encyclopaedia and has 34,000 images.

Unfortunately, due to the size and scope of the project it was not possible to check the reference and external links for each article, so they are not included. As a librarian, that makes me a bit dubious of the whole thing since we teach our students to always look at the references and external links.

Readability statistics are for articles is another area for concern when using this in an educational setting. In the few articles I checked for readability, the average reading score was grade 11. As an educational tool, this would limit the use to high school students. In an effort to make the articles uniform, the editors did not seem to be thinking about low reading levels in high poverty areas.

That being said, it's a noble effort with good intent.

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