Wikipedia with schoolchildren and with adult learners
In some countries Wikipedia is the only encyclopedia written in the first language. It may be flawed or uneven -- especially in the first years of its development -- but the prospect of having an encyclopedia which a schoolchild has at school and home is revolutionary and exciting.
As in developed countries, teachers can explain to students that not all sources are equally reliable, complete or objective. We want children and adults to understand how to evaluate all sources of oral, written and visual information, don't we? Want them to internalize the evaluative criteria so that whether they are reading an article in the Wikipedia, or seeing an American, Indian, Australian, or locally-made movie or TV show, they are looking for evidence of propaganda, bias, point of view, and for whether there is a hidden agenda. There are many books and videos in my local public library which have lower standards than many articles in the Wikipedia. It's my job as a library user, and it's our jobs as teachers to help children -- and adult learners -- to distinguish the wheat from the chaff.
Wikipedia features to help readers determine quality of articles
The Discussion tab shows you what the discussion/debate/ controversy has been in developing the article to date. You can see how many authors there are, how many people have been paying attention to the page. What a great way to show students that writing is often controversial, challenged, and sometimes collaborative. they can also see what the issues are : accuracy, representation of points of view, evidence, etc.
the History tab shows every version of the article. There may be a few versions, or hundreds. A teacher selecting versions can show students how accurate, complete, well-written articles don't usually just appear as an inspiration but are often hard work done in many drafts over time.
Changes in the Wikipedia
"Stable" articles, those which are reviewed, are essentially finished (complete, accurate, well written...) and are then "locked" and labled as "stable."
Teachers who are concerned about research citation can have more confidence in these, presumably and when other Wikipedia articles are cited can require evidence that they are sound.
Wikipedia may be one of the best tools we have to teach critical reading and research.
The problem with having copies on a computer hard drive of the Wikipedia or any other electronic book is that this is then a static copy of that tool. The whole idea of the Wikipedia and of a Wiki in general is that anyone in the audience of that Wiki can modify, rewrite or improve the content already there. There may be hundreds of changes to the Wikipedia daily. A static copy of this tool rather than accessing the Wikipedia on the web would become an outdated copy in very short order, unless a mechanism is going to exist to connect to the Wikipedia website to have the content revised online.
One outcome of the just concluded "Wikimania" conference in Cambridge, Mass. (US) http://wikimania2006.wikimedia.org/ was discussion among several people (there and online) about how to facilitate development of Wikipedias in African languages.
This discussion resulted in the creation of a new list for discussion and coordination among all interested in whatever indigenous language(s) of the continent, and in making Wikipedia (and educational applications of ICT generally) more relevant and useful to Africa and all Africans. Dubbed "AfrophoneWikis" the list has its homepage at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/afrophonewikis/ . There are several links to relevant Wikimania and Wikipedia pages on the site.
The following content presents raw ideas. This page needs massive edits. Do not quote this material in any source. It is not sanctioned in any way. Rather, this page is more of a place holder for more editing to come.