My name is Randy Wilson and I have been working at Wikijunior for the
last year. Because many of you are probably not terribly familiar with
Wikijunior, I would like to give you an overview of the project and
also give my opinion about some of the recent conversation.
Wikijunior was launched by the Wikimedia Foundation in November of
2004. There were three original titles, Wikijunior Big Cats,
Wikijunior The Solar System, and Wikijunior South America. In the
three years since, Wikijunior grown a great deal. Currently there are
more than twenty books in active development. The books include
diverse topics including books about history, culture, language,
science and mathematics. The books are illustrated with photographs
and illustrations and contain interesting and valuable information
appropriate for young people.
The project has adopted a formal mission statement "What is
Wikijunior?" which highlights the core values of the project. The core
values of Wikijunior are: kid friendliness, collaboration, fun,
reliability and openness. The project also has defined a manual of
style to help consistency. We have a structured method of creating new
titles which is intended to encourage collaboration on new titles and
continue to grow the project. We have developed an effective
methodology for collectively creating books from modules and tracking
the progress of each module.
Wikijunior has several books that are available in an html print
version as well as a pdf download. We have at least one book that has
been published as a print book and another that has been made into an
ebook and a streaming video book. Several of our books have been named
as "featured books" on Wikibooks.
While we have a lot to be proud of, there are a few areas where people
express concern related to Wikijunior. The age-appropriateness of the
books is spotty. Most of the books contain some modules (think
chapters) with excellent age-appropriate content. However it is fair
to say that many of the books have reading levels that are too high
for the intended audience. The quality of the information is not
always as good as it needs to be, there are too many factual errors
and too much unsourced information to be a reliable resource to be
used in schools. Some believe the new title policy restricts the
growth of the project and turns off potential contributors. Still
others believe that the wiki nature of Wikijunior makes it an
unsuitable platform for educational content.
Unfortunately, the number of contributors and contributions has
dropped to an alarming low over the past few months. Our ideal
contributor would be someone with a background in children's
education, or children working with adult assistance; so these are the
kind of contributors we would like to reach out to. Private
discussions with a few contributors have led me to believe that more
primary educators would be willing to contribute and use Wikijunior
except that the problems of vandalism and potentially incorrect
content are difficult for them to get past. You see, here in the US a
teacher could not only get fired for showing her class some of the
things I've seen on a vandalized Wiki page, but could actually end up
in jail. There is not a big problem with vandalism at Wikijunior and
the Wikibooks admins are generally effective vandal fighters. Still,
it has happened that there was a module vandalized with profanity
stuck into the middle of a paragraph that stayed that way for more
than four months.
The idea of creating a static site at Wikijunior.org
discussed before. In fact there was an announcement some time ago that
the board had decided to move forward and do just that. Some of that
discussion is at
. Having a secondary static version would minimize the risk primary
school teachers run of exposing their students to foul language,
offensive content, and incorrect information. Here's one way that I
think it could work effectively with a minimum of developer time:
would run Mediawiki software and have the import
function enabled from Wikibooks.
would have a stripped down default skin with larger
fonts and no sidebar as its default. (See for example:
3) Administrators could change their skin to make the editing tools visible.
4) All modules on Wikijunior.org
would be editable by administrators only.
5) Book development would continue on Wikibooks and be open to
anonymous edits as it is now.
6) When a module was ready, it would be transwikied to the
site by an administrator.
7) Each module would have a "contributing" link that would link back
to the Wikijunior development site on Wikibooks.
There is another potential side benefit of a static version. I think
that a static online version would be a major step toward physical
publication. The problem with production for print is that everything
needs to come together at the right moment. A static site would be
useful for "staging" a printable version piece by piece and allowing
contributors to visualize the completed version, watching it grow as
each module was vetted and moved over. The Solar System is an example
of a book that is really close to being ready. Primarily it needs
someone to go through and fix the many layout issues, select the
content to be included and give it an overall narrative.
I could see Wikijunior.org
growing into an outlet for free works from
other projects. As long as the work is in keeping with Wikijunior's
core values and is intended to be consumed by children, I think that
it would be great to have other types of content. I think that
material from other GFDL projects that is suitable for kids could be
incorporated into a Wikijunior.org
site fairly readily. For instance a
selected set from the gallery at Commons:Featured
pictures/Animals/Birds might be suitable. I didn't see much on
Wikiversity and Wikieducator that seemed aimed at children though but
perhaps someday soon. I don't think that a site at Wikijunior.org
needs to be specifically for "books and magazines". I think it could
certainly host podcasts, videos and other learning-oriented
open-content media (in the future.)
In relation to networking Wikijunior, we definitely need to gain more
mindshare among the open education community. I don't know how to get
people to blog about Wikijunior. Cross links with related projects
seems like a good idea to me. I would love to talk with anyone active
in such an organization, or anyone who has an open-education blog.
So far, attempts at an English-language kids encyclopedia (Wikikids)
haven't been terribly successful. I think that Wikijunior could offer
to host one if Wikibookians didn't object. I can see us developing
both a kids encyclopedia and a kids dictionary in the future. I
personally don't see a problem with keeping it all under the same
umbrella. But I think this would require discussion first.
I realize this has been a very long email, but I hope that it has
given some of you who are unfamiliar with the project a better
understanding of what Wikijunior was, is, and could be.