Klexikon is the name of a wiki. It is an encyclopedia for children at the age of six to twelve. This encyclopedia in German language started in November 2014, its creation was supported by Wikimedia Deutschland.
The wiki is hosted by ZUM e.V., a German association of teachers interested in open educational resources. The Klexikon is on the whitelist of several big search engines for children in Germany.
A contact person here on Meta is User:Ziko. Feel free to ask about the concept or other ways to cooperate.
Why do children need a children's encyclopedia?
The idea behind an encyclopedia is simple: to make knowledge more accessible. Readers can look up words they encounter in their lives, for example in conversations. Encyclopedias are invaluable resources that allow people to navigate the vast amount of knowledge that has accumulated over the course of human history.
Wikipedia is an example of such an encyclopedia and attracts readers of all ages, including young people. However, it is important to note that Wikipedia is not specifically designed for children. Many articles on Wikipedia are excessively long, contain complex sentences and use difficult vocabulary. Therefore, some of Wikipedia's content may not be suitable for children.
Nevertheless, children also need an encyclopedia. They come across unfamiliar words in school books, in the family, on television and in other contexts. They hear about diseases, social problems, inventions, historical events and famous people. An encyclopedia helps them to find information quickly and understand the basics. Even if an encyclopedia does not provide exhaustive information, it serves as a useful first step for further exploration.
An encyclopedia is an independent work that stands for itself. It is not part of a curriculum, for example in school. This characteristic makes the encyclopedia a universal tool for improving understanding of the world. However, it should be noted that an encyclopedia cannot replace the importance of textbooks, parental guidance, libraries or the extensive resources on the Internet.
How about existing wiki encyclopedias for children?
A few years after Wikipedia was created in 2001, people started creating many wikis for different purposes. In several countries, individuals independently set up wikis specifically for children, both as readers and writers. On Meta Wiki, we have a List of wikis for children.
In 2014, Michael Schulte and Ziko van Dijk investigated these wikis and found a number of problems. The articles often lacked written quality: for example, they consisted of loosely strung together sentences. Many articles were not much easier to read and understand than Wikipedia articles. Some content was not really suitable for children.
The main problem was that these wikis tried to imitate Wikipedia too much. Anyone could easily create an account and post, which encouraged vandalism. There were few minimum standards and ensuring readability was not a high priority.
Can children write a children's encyclopedia?
Another notable observation was that many of these wikis aimed to involve children as authors. Perhaps this was due to the widespread notion that children understand better what appeals to their peers. In addition, some people found it endearing that children could support others through their contributions. Some of the founders of these children's wikis were teachers looking for a platform to use in the classroom.
However, the founders of Klexikon were increasingly skeptical about the role of children as authors. Books or television programs for children are usually not written by children themselves, but by adults. Writing good texts requires a range of skills that are usually acquired over a long period of time.
A number of experiments were conducted with children writing texts for Klexikon, both online and in the classroom. It was found that the texts written by the children often fell well short of the quality required for an online encyclopedia. As a rule, extensive revisions were necessary to meet the required standards. It became clear that the involvement of children is possible, but only under certain favorable conditions. There must be an appropriate concept and sufficient time for the children. This has now also been achieved.
What is the focus of the Klexikon?
Any project that wants to achieve its goals needs focus. In the case of the Klexikon, the focus is on quality texts suitable for the target group. Additionally every article has at least one picture, well chosen.
The Klexikon concept is actually minimalist. Klexikon articles
- have at least 1000 and not more than 10,000 characters (bytes). On the one hand, too short texts are not useful for readers, and on the other hand, readers do not like too long texts. Consider that reading 2 or 3 pages of texts takes a lot of time especially for young, less experienced readers. The longer articles have sections, but no sub sections.
- have no italics or bold, no parentheses, no bullet points. These typographical elements are common for adults, but not for young readers. Besides, a list of short items (with bullet points) needs contextualisation and is often a sign of lazy writing.
- contain no footnotes. If Klexikon writers disagree about a fact or statement, they simply look it up in (German) Wikipedia. If someone thinks that Wikipedia wrong, he or she has to change it on Wikipedia first.
It is a general goal to use as few wiki code as possible. The Klexikon does not use info boxes and (almost) no templates. This is important for new contributors who have no earlier experience with wikis. In a Klexikon article you will find less than 10 different wiki code elements, in Wikipedia articles 20 to 30.
How are Klexikon articles created?
On Wikipedia, the process of creating articles is quite chaotic. Anyone can create an article immediately. However, it is also part of the reality that anyone can challenge this article and propose it for deletion. Articles are deleted if their topic is insignificant or if they are very poorly written.
Discussions about deletions are the cause of stress and hostility on Wikipedia. The radical openness of Wikipedia allows people to invest a lot of time in a text and only find out afterwards that the article has no right to exist.
The process is different in Klexikon. There is a list of articles that are welcome and a draft namespace. The list contains all possible articles, with existing articles marked in blue and desired articles in red (red links mean, as in Wikipedia, that the linked page does not yet exist).
You may only create a new article if the term is already included in the list. If you think that a term should be added to the list, you can suggest it on the discussion page. After a 14 day discussion period, it will be added to the list if there are no objections. This ensures that the existence of the article cannot be disputed later.
New articles always start as a draft page in the draft namespace. The creator of the page and any other contributor can edit it there. If the text is good enough and meets the minimum requirements, a vote is taken on the discussion page. If three people agree that the page should become an article, it is moved to the article namespace. This procedure has several advantages: You can work on a draft without feeling the pressure like in Wikipedia, all articles meet the minimum standards, and the main author of the text gets a "thumbs up".
How can you create a Klexikon in your language?
Klexikon exists only on German. But there are many other other linguistic communities which can profit from a childrens' encyclopedia. If you want to have such a wiki in your own language, what are the challenges? First of all, you need at least a handful of volunteers who want to write articles, help each other and fill a wiki with life. The commitment is to work at least a few hours a week and respond to messages at least every other day. This initial group should know each other or make friends early on, for example through online meetups.
Secondly, you need a plan or concept and a good set of rules for your wiki. You can learn from other wikis. It helps if your group agrees on the basic ideas, e.g. that your wiki should be about content and not about providing a learning platform where kids edit (which is not a bad thing, it's just something different).
Thirdly, look for support. Maybe find a non-profit organization to host your wiki? Is there a Wikimedia chapter in your country? What educational institutions might want to help you?
Awards and honorary mentions
- Land der Ideen, June 2018. The Klexikon became an "excellent location" in "Germany. Country of ideas", an initiative of the German government and industry.
- German OER award, 2017
- Schau hin, March 2016. This initiative of the German ministry for families supports responsible internet consumption.
- PÄDI Award, 2015
Information in English
- Can children write articles for a wiki encyclopedia?, June 2021
- Presentation at Wikimania in Mexico City, July 2015
- Wikimedia Foundation blog, July 2015
- Final report to Wikimedia Deutschland about a 'Free Encyclopedia for Children', July 2015 (March)
- Short introduction at the Klexikon itself
- Klexikon YouTube channel, with videos in German and English
Presentation at Dortmund university, with professor Michael Beißwenger, June 2015
Dortmund students presenting the Klexikon, September 2016
Workshop at Duisburg-Essen university, June 2017
Poster session at Wikimania in Montréal, August 2017
Seminar at Duisburg-Essen university, March 2019