User-Generated Content in Education/Wikibooks
Wikibooks are open-source, user generated books designed to give people free access to information and learning. Wikibook sujbects range from fine arts to foreign languages, to auto repair to European History. Wikibooks also has a category for children under 12 called Wikijunior. Like Wikipedia anyone can both access and create or edit content of Wikibooks.
Wikibooks was created on July 10, 2003 when Wikipedia user Karl Wick suggested that there should be an easier way to get open-content textbooks to all people, regardless of economic or geographic barriers. The Wikimedia Foundation, which oversees Wikipedia and its sister projects, agreed, and Wikibooks was born. Since then, the project has grown quickly, with 123 modules created in the first three weeks, 10,000 in the first two years, and almost 36,000 as of March, 2010 .
The over-riding guideline for contributing to Wikibooks is "respect." Respect for copyrights, respect for other users, and respect for the Wikibooks' purpose of being an instructional resource are all insisted upon. The following are additional policies and guidelines:
Wikibooks' advice to contributors is "Be bold...but please don't be reckless" . Anyone can edit pages in Wikibooks at any time, and people are encouraged to do so, especially in the case of factual, spelling, grammar, or formatting errors. If the changes are more controversial, people are encouraged to use the discussion tab on each page to open a conversation and work to come to a community consensus before making drastic additions, deletions, or changes.
Wikibooks suggests that anyone adding content to a Wikibook takes the following considerations into mind: check your facts, cite your sources, and define or explain jargon. It is also suggested that, when making changes, incorporate them into the text at an appropriate spot rather than just adding them onto the end.
Neutral Point of View (NPOV)
Wikibooks contributors are guided by a Neutral Point of View policy to ensure fair, unbiased content. The Wikibooks project is not served by advancing or detracting particular points of view, unless relevant within the content of the textbook. While the community self-polices and relies on each other to review content (changes are welcome) to ensure NPOV, edit wars are discouraged and will not be tolerated.
While there is no official "style" for Wikibooks, the Wikibooks:Manual of Style is generally considered helpful by many users. This manual includes information on structure elements such as how to set up the main page, the table of contents, the navigation, the bibliography, and the appendices. There are also suggestions on how to use headers, footnotes, references, and linking .
Wikibooks in Education
With Wikibooks, James Wales and the Wikimedia Foundation are “attempt(ing) to create a comprehensive, kindergarten-to-college curriculum of textbooks that are free and freely distributable, based on an open-source development model” . Content found in Wikibooks are “free licensed” so they can be used anywhere in the world by classroom teachers. Like Wikipedia, Wikibooks can be edited for content and are easy to use. According to James Wales “the purpose is...to make available to anyone in the world, in any langauge, a curriculum that they can copy, redistribute and modify for whatever purpose they may have, for free” .
Wikibooks in the Classroom
One way teachers can utilize Wikibooks in the classroom is to review them for accuracy of content. By evaluating the source itself, students learn more about the content. If students find errors, they can edit the page to fix the mistake. They can even edit the page to expand upon an idea already presented.
Students can also create their own Wikibook on an assigned subject and share it with others. Students can collaborate with other students anywhere in the world.
As part of a graudation project, Wikibooks serves as an excellent location to begin a conversation about a specific topic that can be built with other contributors. Since graduation projects are designed to span time and develop expertise in a specific subject, a Wikibook is an excellent venue to support sustained research, inviting expert contributors to collaborate with the student. The benefit of publishing through the wiki adds authenticity and sustained value to the endeavor.
Advantages of Wikibooks
1. An advantage of Wikibooks is that the information found in the book is as current as possible. In many fields, traditional textbooks are often out of date as soon as they are printed. With Wikibooks, teachers can provide the most up-to-date information to their students.
2. Another advantage of Wikibooks is that they are free. Schools can save money by using Wikibooks instead of purchasing a new set of textbooks. Utilizing free materials is one way that schools can offer more of a variety of classes to their students without a lot of cost.
3. Wikibooks are not limited by what existes. It is an environment that invites creativity, adaptation, and development. Unlike textbooks that are static and established, Wikibooks grows with the knowledge and vision of its users.
Disadvantages of Wikibooks
A disadvantage of Wikibooks deals with the open nature of Wikibooks and authority. Because anyone can add information to a Wikibook, the normal vetting & peer-review process publishers use for ideas and information is not followed. Therefore, educators and students using a Wikibook must read and think critically when learning. Recently wikibooks has implemented a Editor position within individual books, a person to vet any submitted changes.
As a research site, the topic of focus may not yet be developed to the level needed by the user. Instead of being a resource, the site would then have to be used for construction.
Wikibooks Card Catalog
All Wikibooks can be found at the Card Catalog Office. To aid browsing, Wikibooks uses three cataloging systems:
By Completion Status
By Reading Level
Wikibooks listed "By Subject" are grouped together by related topics. Wikibooks browsers often look for books that are complete or nearing completion; "By Completion Status" is indicated by percent increments of 0%, 25%, 50%, 75%, or 100%. "By Reading Level" categories provides information to quickly find age-appropriate materials; content is categorized as either pre-reader, beginner, intermediate, advanced, or professional. ikibooks within these first three systems are first listed as top-level categories (see image). Clicking on each will open a second-level category.
An Alphabetical_classification is also provided; all Wikibooks are listed alphabetically by the first letter of their title.
Contributors, or users, can learn more about these schemes at the Card Catalog Resources page.
“The aim of this project is to produce age-appropriate non-fiction books for children from birth to age 12” . Wikijunior books are created by kids, teachers, and parents. They use text, photographs and diagrams, and original works . Wikijunior books are “kid friendly, collaborative, fun, reliable, and open” .
Wikijunior books are categorized by subjects. So far, those subjects include:
- Discovery and Innovation
- The Natural World
Examples of Wikijunior Books
Once you select a Wikijunior book to read, you’ll be taken to a new page similar to a table of contents. The page first shows a brief summary of the book and how to navigate through the book to read the various articles found within it. Wikijunior books are organized and with the click of a button, you can navigate to the subtopics within the book. You can also learn more about the individuals responsible for creating the book by clicking the “Authors” link.
Wikijunior also has a "Featured Collaboration" book that is highlighted to invite collaborators into the project. Kids can also use a search feature to find a book.
Content is currently being developed in eighteen different languages.
Wikibooks' featured books are nominated by Wikibooks users, known as Wikibookians, as exemplary books that should "inspire people to improve the quality of other books" . People can nominate books that they feel are "good books," and then others may voice either their support, opposition, or neutrality for the nomination. Wikibooks acknowledges that there is not everyone will agree on what makes a book "good," but the following is a list of suggested criteria:
- Adhere to the guidelines set forth on the What Is Wikibooks? description page, have a neutral point of view, and follow protocol for any original research.
- Have an acceptable target audience, scope, and style.
- Follow Wikibooks' naming policy and style guidelines.
- Be clear enough and complete enough to be used as an educational tool
- Be listed in an appropriate category.
- Utilize a Table of Contents and navigational guides.
- NOT be a candidate for deletion, reorganization, or maintenance.
- NOT contain any copyright violations.
- NOT contain orphan pages, too many red links, or any unresolved disputes.
Examples of Featured Books
Compared to the thousands of books to be found at Wikibooks, there are less than 100 Featured books, attesting to the high standards that the community has for choosing them. After a book is designated as a Featured book, a "Featured Book" template can be placed on the book and it is placed in one of the following categories: Humanities and Arts, Languages, Social Sciences, Natural Sciences, Computing, Miscellaneous, or Wikijunior.
Cookbook offers "recipes from around the world".
Other Wikibooks Features
There are various ways you can search for books in the Wikibooks collection. You can browse by subject, by title, by category, by completion status, or by audience.
The Wikibooks page includes a link to the Wikimedia Foundation's donations page. The page explains although Wikimedia runs some of the most popular websites in the world, the company actually employs less than 35 people. For this reason, the non-profit organization relies on tax-deductible donations to keep its projects, such as Wikipedia, Wikibooks, Wikiversity, Wiktionary, and Wikiquote, running. The donations page makes available relevant documents such as financial reports, information about the various projects, and Frequently Asked Questions. The money is used to support the technology infrastructure for the Wikimedia projects, as well as to pay a small number of employees. However, the vast majority of the work done at for Wikimedia is done by volunteers who author, update, and maintain the projects .
Currently there are Wikibooks in 58 languages and Wikijunior books in 18.
Multimedia may be in the foreseeable future for Wikibooks. Founder James Wales understands that some content needs to be learned through a multimedia approach. He adds that "Wikibooks could be extended to include audio books" .