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 concept of the encyclopedia is simple: provide quick access to knowledge. The readers can look words up they heard in their life, for example, in a conversation. Thanks to encyclopedias, people can deal with the enormous amount of knowledge humanity has gathered in its history.
Wikipedia is such an encyclopedia. Among its readers are even very young people. But Wikipedia is not written for children. Many articles are much too long, have complicated sentences and use difficult words. The content of Wikipedia is sometimes not suitable for children.
But children need an encyclopedia, too. They hear or read words that they do not know, in school books, in the family, on the television and so on. They hear about deseases, problems in society, inventions, historical events, famous people. A quick look-up helps them to understand the basics. Even if the encyclopedia does not give you all information, it is a useful first step for more exploration.
An encyclopedia is a work standing on its own. It is not part of a school curriculum, for example. This makes the encyclopedia a universal tool to understand your own world better. It does not replace school books, parental advice, a library or the rest of the Internet.
How about existing wiki encyclopedias for children?
A couple of years after Wikipedia was born, in 2001, people created a lot of wikis for different purposes. In several countries, people independently from each other set up wikis for children as readers and also as writers. We have a List of wikis for children here on Meta Wiki.
When Michael Schulte and Ziko van Dijk did research on these wikis in 2014, they noted some issues with these wikis. The articles often lacked textual quality: they consisted of loose sentences one after the other, for example. Many articles seem were not much easier to read and understand than Wikipedia articles. Some content seemed to be not really child friendly.
The main problem was that these wikis imitated too much the concepts of Wikipedia: new contributors can simply give themselve an account. It is easy to vandalize. There are few minimum standards. Readability has no high priority.
Can children write a children's encyclopedia?
Another observation was that many of these wikis want to have children as writers. Maybe this stems from the popular idea that children know best what other children like. Many people also find it 'cute' that children help other people by writing content. Some founders of these wikis for children are teachers and wanted a platform to use in the class room.
The founders of the Klexikon became very sceptical about children authors. In general, think of books or TV shows for children: they all are not written or produced by children but by adults. You need a lot of skills to write good texts; good writers have learned these skills over a large span of time.
There were some experiments with children writing texts for the Klexikon, both online and in class rooms. It showed that the texts written by the children were very remote from the qualily necessary for an online encyclopedia. The texts needed to be rewritten, essentially from scratch. Maybe future experiments would require much more time for the projects and a better support for the teachers with learning material.
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 article creation process is rather messy. Anyone can create an article immediately. But it is also part of the reality that anyone can contest that article and nominate it for deletion. Articles are deleted if their subject is not notable 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 afterwards they are told that the article has no reason to exist.
In Klexikon, the process is different. There is a list of articles that are welcome, and a draft name space. The list contains all possible articles, with existing articles in blue and desired articles in red (red links mean, as in Wikipedia, that the linked page does not exist yet).
You are only allowed to create a new article if the term is already on the list. If you think that a term should be on the list, you can propose it on the talk page. After seven days of discussion, if it is not objected, it will be added to the list. This makes it sure that the existence of the article can later not be contested.
New articles always start as a draft page in the draft name space. The page creator and any other contributor can edit it there. If the text is good enough and meets the minimum standards, people vote on the talk page. If three contributors agree that it should be an article, it will be moved to the article name space. This process has several advantages: you can work on a draft without the pressure as in Wikipedia, all articles meet minimum standards, and the main writer of the text receives 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, you need at least a handful of volunteers who want to write articles, help each other and make a wiki alive. The commitment is at least a couple of hours a week, and reacting to messages at least every second day. This initial group should know each other or make friends early, for example via online meetings.
Second, 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, for example that your wiki should be about content and not about providing a learning platform on which children edit (which is not a bad thing, but simply something very different).
Third, look for support. Maybe you find a non profit organization that hosts your wiki? Is there a Wikimedia chapter in your country? What institutions in the educational sector 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
- 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