Wikikids/For children or by children?
This page aims to explain the features of Wikikids and provide reasoning about the age range of its readers and editors.
It is partly based on the Vikidia's experience.
Who should be Wikikids' editors?
The basic principles of Wikikids is that it is a free encyclopedia designed for 8-13 year old children, that anyone can edit. It is particularly open to anyone's participation, without any age restrictions.
It is still useful to elaborate on what implies this openness and the ideas and reasons that can support it.
This issue can lead to several approaches:
- Choose as the chief purpose the quality of the content, it being written a priori by adults, while remaining open to children if some can help.
- Or choose as the main purpose to enable children to write, adults being able to help, expand a bit, watch and perform some maintenance tasks.
We take both on Wikikids. There is eventually no priority between content quality and enabling children and teenager to be involved in building it.
The intent is also for most tasks on this wiki not to be assigned simply because of an editor's age. Reasons for that are:
- new and young editors can publish articles that will be checked and bettered by adults, while adults may publish articles that younger users can add pictures to. It wouldn't be wise to stand in the way of either possibility (and any others),
- Where there are no stakes related to age, there is less reason for users to be tempted to conceal it. Formally distinguishing age groups would bring a risks of a kind of threshold effect. The other way around, a certain continuity happen across children, teenagers and adults.
- it can be rewarding and exciting for younger editor to feel not just engaged in an activity, designed and managed for them, but to be involved and associated with a real project, and
- it is an efficient use of adult resources to allow them to engage in content and writing rather than maintenance and people management.
Adults involvement is essential for:
- building content that is of quality and significance,
- fostering basic maintenance; to watch and ensure a certain stability in the functioning of the wiki, and
- advising and mentoring younger editors, if needed.
Children's involvement even when they infrequently produce very long articles, has several benefits:
- lets them create or work on subjects that interest their peers,
- reminds older editors who they write for and offers them feedback,
- arouses among readers a more involved perception of the encyclopedia content, be they the regular editor themselves, or be they readers that become aware they could edit themselves,
- improves the formative side of writing and organizing information,
- provides an outlet for fulfilment of children's aspirations and their desire to participate (enacted by the Convention on the Rights of the Child),
- ...and directly, they definitely take their share in growing the content and in maintenance tasks.
Another relevance of the Children participation, thought more hypothetical, is that when a child starts an article, be it insufficient, he takes the subject seriously. When an adult that will correct and expand it may therefore be prevented to write in an infantilizating style.
Teenagers can help a lot, they are notably an help on technical matters, for some benefits that are similar to the ones states above both for adults and children.
The user's age distribution or edit distribution by user age is difficult because the edit "quantity" of users can not be traced directly, and comparison between users involved in very diverse activities is difficult. We may notice that while a child's particular writing may look trivial, it may nevertheless represent a notable involvement and boldness for him.
During the first years on Vikidia in French, the distribution seemed to be about one-half adult edits, one-third teenage edits and one-sixth edits from the reader age range. After the increase in site traffic, children readers are now the majority of new users.
There is thought a numerable feature: On fr.vikidia, august 2013 there are 3 administrators who are 8 to 13 years old, 4 who are 14 to 17 years old and 15 adults (out of them 4 were less than 18 when they started to edit Vikidia, or became administrators). The youngest, which is also the only girl in the team, is 9 years old.
This project is not the first one to let children be involved in building a resource for children.
We may mention the Freinet movement which has been publishing magazines for a long time, whom articles are prepared by pupils in classrooms after they have done some inquiries, interviews. These magazines aim to make a (serious) set of documentary resources for the classroom (see). All the same, these magazine articles are checked and reviewed in a similar way as in any magazine before they are printed, whereas on Vikidia/this project, articles and contributions are checked in a Wikipedia way, on which efficiency you can have your own opinion!
More obviously, Wikipedia that allows editor from any background to edit is another antecedent.
Who should Wikikids be written for?
Wikikids is a free encyclopedia designed for 8-13 years old children. However, this description is of use to define what it is geared toward, but it doesn't exclude its usefulness to others.
The Simple English Wikipedia ultimately has a similar purpose, yet it is designed primarily to speak to language level rather than its audience's age range.
We may imagine a documentary resource that, beyond considerations of age range, would address a comprehensibility level of any particular subject. Indeed, at any age we can be considered a beginner in a particular field of knowledge, and would need simple documents to take our first steps.
However, as we become more familiar with the basic ideas in a field, we become – whatever our age – able to explore and better comprehend ever more complex documentation. A child that is impassioned by archaeology would certainly take advantage of Wikipedia articles or even subsequently specialized articles if they do not contain too much technical jargon.
The crucial quality for a documentary resource for children is to take them seriously and to take into account their learning level without stooping to infantilization. We may keep as a criterion that the quality of a children-directed content should be such that it could, without embarrassment, be offered to someone in a learning situation on that subject, whatever his age, be he a non-native speaker, a high school student in another language or just someone needing, in a particular field, to start from scratch.
We may even be cautious in not making the reader feel inferior, be they adult or teenager, by making them feel that the content was not designed for him.
The fact that a resource devoted to 8-13 years old children could be used for adult learning can constitute a guaranty against risks of infantilization. The achievement would be that any person, be he 8 or 88, when starting from scratch on a subject, would know that he could find what he needs on such a wiki.
- Participation - Manual on Human Rights Education for Children, Council of Europe.
- Supporting an Online Community for Kids, by Andrés Monroy-Hernández, Scratch Team at MIT, about the Scratch Online Community, 2011.
This text was translated from http://fr.vikidia.org/wiki/Vikidia:Pour_les_enfants_ou_par_les_enfants_%3F