I think you've misinterpreted what I'm proposing.  I agree with you in regards 
to "offline content", it takes away entirely one of the chief advantages of an 
online encyclopaedia - that is, being up to date.  If this project happens, I 
fully support the main mode of delivery being a website that students can 
access, and which can be periodically updated (although a download is probably 
still a good idea for the handful of places where an online interactive site 
can't be supported, such as extremely remote schools with limited or no 
internet connectivity).

In response to your specific questions:

1) I've talked to two teachers in the past few days, and asked them 
specifically for their thoughts on Wikipedia.  One said "there's porn on that 
site, so we don't allow students to use it at school", and the other cited the 
usual concerns about data being incorrect, incomplete, etc.  I realise that the 
opinions of two teachers don't cover the opinions of all teachers, but I'd 
wager that their views are not unusual.  As we all know, neither of these 
concerns are particularly true, but nevertheless, the perception continues to 

2) I think that highlighting Wikipedia's best content and delivering it is a 
laudable endeavour.  There's lots of great content, but there's also lots of 
not-so-great content.  While we work on getting the not-so-great stuff up to 
scratch, why not provide a sample of the good stuff to get people interested?  
Especially if we can tie in the good content with topics teachers want to 
teach.  It can also be a useful tool to find out what content we need to 
concentrate on improving (that is, what the general public, our "customers", 
are interested in).

3) Obviously, we'd have to talk to education departments to see what they want. 
 But even without talking to them, it's obvious that there are some gaps, which 
it won't take that much effort to fill in.

4) See my comments above.  This is an entirely separate issue, in my view.

I'm well aware that with all things, there will be disagreement on whether this 
is a suitable use of our time.  However, my view is that this will cost WMau 
nothing, not take up that much work (relatively speaking), and can possibly 
lead to some good press, help spread the knowledge around, and perhaps help 
recruit the next generation of Wiki-contributors.


Craig Franklin
PO Box 1093
Toombul, Q, 4012
http://www.halo-17.net - Australia's Favourite Source of Indie Music, Art, and 

  ----- Original Message ----- 
  From: Peter Halasz 
  To: Wikimedia-au 
  Sent: Thursday, December 11, 2008 9:22 PM
  Subject: [personal] Re: [Wikimediaau-l] Wikipedia and schools

  Basically there are three issues being discussed: censorship, cut down 
wikipedia for schools, and an offline wikipedia.

  The schools issue is also confused. What is its purpose? Are we talking 
censoring images? Protecting children from dangerous information? Legal 
concerns? or are we trying to create textbooks? Use more appropriate (simpler) 
language? Create an offline Wikipedia? Filter content for children who are not 
old enough to tell nonsense from fact? Pick the best revision of an article for 
children? I don't see (which is) the purpose.

  But here's my two cents on these issues all the same:

  1) We should be working with schools and concerned parents on these issues. 
We're not exactly being preemptive with schools anyway: Schools have been using 
Wikipedia for years, often having specific policies relating to its use in 
assignments. So before we do anything, we should be talking with schools. Do 
schools even have an issue with explicit images on Wikipedia? This thread was 
started by ISPs in England censoring Wikipedia -- not schools. Would hiding 
images be enough, or do they want entire articles censored? Are they happy 
enough censoring it themselves, or do they want more precise filters (e.g. 
removing/hiding images). 

  2) a schools wikipedia should not simply be a "whitelist" of "good pages" -- 
there are 2.5 million articles and we're not going to classify each one. For 
one it's far easier to blacklist, and then you're just censoring. 

  3) But if you want to pretend that a cutdown wikipedia is different to a 
censored Wikipedia .. A cutdown pedia needs a specific curriculum. I believe 
schools-wikipedia is based on some UK curriculum. If we make one for Australian 
schools (which I do not personally think is a great idea) it needs to be based 
on topics from Australian cirricula (and every state has its own). Probably 
should be based on an age group (because I really don't think year 12's need a 
special cutdown 'pedia) It also needs to be based on demand from schools, 
parents and students (see #1), which I'm not aware of. Also, it seems to be a 
massive waste of effort, as it's just going to be a poorer version of the full 
Wikipedia. What is the specific need we're addressing? (see questions at top) 
If there's content school kids shouldn't be allowed to see, then we need to 
work with schools. If there's a need for offline viewing, then there's probably 
a better way than putting HTML on a DVD.

  4) a CD/DVD/USB stick offline version of Wikipedia fails in a number of 
fundamental ways. Apart from being inherently incomplete, uneditable and 
immediately out of date, the only real purpose is to make Wikipedia available 
where there isn't internet access. This is an odd way of making the internet 
available where there isn't internet. In my opinion, lobbying governments to 
give schools internet access would be more effective than trying to tackle the 
impossible task of turning a massive, dynamic, interactive website (Wikipedia) 
into a DVD. (What came of the German DVD anyway? Honest question, not retorical)

  I'm writing another message on how I think an offline WIkipedia could 
possibly work, in a general way, if there are keen developers and/or resources 
to get it done.

  Basically, what is the driving force for a Schools Wikipedia Australia, and 
who needs it?

  Peter Halasz


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