Monday, November 13, 2006

Consider the Simple English Wikipedia

G'Day all,

Wikipedia has certainly altered the world in the last few years. It seems people have a love / hate relationship with the upstart encyclopedia. I'm not going to try to change anyone's mind, but to point to a few sites that contribute to the discussion and then share an activity.

Background & Reading

Class Activity for Middle - High School
Of course everyone knows about the main Wikipedia site. It's the one that always comes up in Google when you search for just about anything these days. Most people also know that Wikipedia is translated into heaps of different languages (see the bottom of this page).

What a lot of people don't know about is the Simple English Wikipedia. Designed for people with different needs: students, children, and adults with learning difficulties or of limited English ability. Take a look at some sample topics with links to both the regular Wikipedia and the same topic in the Simple English version:
The clever viewer will notice that the only difference in the Web addresses is "en" or "simple" as the sub-domain (the first bit of the URL). So here are two ideas:
  1. When studying a topic, either model or have students compare the "en" and "simple" pages. This is a good way to represent the range of learning possible on the topic. Also, reading the Simple version can help students set up their cognitive schema, to see the "big picture" of the subject, before getting into the details.
  2. The real problem - as I see it- with Wikipedia is that students and schools largely see it as a source to learn from, not a knowledgebase to add to. How about having your students contribute to the Simple English Wikipedia? Simplifying a complex topic can be a good exercise. Especially when trying to stick to the Basic English. Why not give it a go?
Carbon Trading in Wikipedia & you can create it in Simple English Wikipedia