Submissions/Learning Literacy with Wikipedia

From Wikimania 2014 • London, United Kingdom

This is an accepted submission for Wikimania 2014.

Submission no. 3015
Title of the submission
Learning Literacy with Wikipedia
Type of submission (discussion, hot seat, panel, presentation, tutorial, workshop)
Author of the submission
C. Scott Ananian
E-mail address
Country of origin
Affiliation, if any (organisation, company etc.)
Wikimedia Foundation / One Laptop per Child Foundation
Personal homepage or blog
Abstract (at least 300 words to describe your proposal)

Imagine a world in which every single person is given access to the sum of human knowledge --- but the people can't read what they've been given.

In the United States, 32 million adults can't read, 14% of the population. Worldwide, 774 million adults and 123 million youth cannot read. Women and the disadvantaged make up a disproportionate share of the illiterate.

How can we help the people of the world to read what we have given them?

We will begin by reviewing the results of the One Laptop per Child project. An offline Wikipedia slice was among the applications provided to every one of the 395,000 children in Uruguay's 1st through 6th grades between 2008 and 2009. A similar project was undertaken in Peru. In some remote communities, it was found that the school teachers themselves were not functionally literate. We'll discuss the lessons learned from those original deployments.

From there we will discuss an Ethiopian literacy pilot launched in 2012 by One Laptop per Child which investigated approaches to literacy learning which can be applied even in the absence of literate teachers or members of the community.

These experiences informed the design of Nell's Wikipedia, a "read along" Wikipedia browser designed for literacy learning. Nell's Wikipedia can speak the article text, highlighting each word as it is read. It uses the Simple English Wikipedia to teach English language literacy.

"Nell's Wikipedia" is just one piece of a literacy program. There is a need for additional open content projects for literacy learning. A word database is an important part of many literacy curricula: a set of nouns and simple verbs along with illustrations, media clips, audio pronunciations, definitions and uses. This forms the basis for vocabulary exercises and more interesting teaching tools. Parts of this database can be drawn from Wiktionary and Wikipedia, but there are many gaps to fill. For bilingual education, having word correspondences between languages is a helpful addition; the existing Wikipedia interwiki links can be mined.

Navigating to interesting articles is a challenge if you are illiterate. Visual navigation tools and guides would help make more content accessible to beginning learners.

Finally: writing skills are also an important part of literacy. Offline readers are an important tool in literacy projects in remote regions, but users end up cut off from the community of authors and editors. Offline editing tools can bridge the divide. We will discuss offline editing in the context of the OLPC deployments and Nell's Wikipedia.

Education Outreach
Length of session (if other than 30 minutes, specify how long)
30 minutes
Will you attend Wikimania if your submission is not accepted?
Slides or further information (optional)

Google Present PDF

Special requests

Cannot conflict with Parsoid talk.

Interested attendees

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  1. Is this viable? Is this really a potential path for development? Blue Rasberry (talk) 22:14, 7 April 2014 (UTC)[reply]
  2. Quiddity (talk) 20:01, 12 April 2014 (UTC)[reply]
  3. --アンタナナ 10:20, 8 August 2014 (UTC)[reply]
  4. Add your username here.