Wikipedia for Schools -- downloadable torrent of Wikipedia's curriculum-relevant articles

Wikipedia for Schools is a torrentable DVD version of Wikipedia that you can run on classroom PCs that aren't connected to the net. It's also a handy size for sticking on a memory card and plugging into your phone or netbook.
Welcome to this Wikipedia Selection. This 2008/9 Wikipedia DVD Selection is a free, hand-checked, non-commercial selection from Wikipedia, targeted around the UK National Curriculum and useful for much of the English speaking world. It has about 5500 articles (as much as can be fitted on a DVD with good size images) and is about the size of a twenty volume encyclopaedia (34,000 images and 20 million words). Articles were chosen from a list ranked by importance and quality generated by project members. This list of articles was then manually sorted for relevance to children, and adult topics were removed. Compared to the 2007 version some six hundred articles were removed and two thousand more relevant articles (of now adequate quality) were added. SOS Children volunteers then checked and tidied up the contents, first by selecting historical versions of articles free from vandalism and then by removing unsuitable sections. External links and references are also not included since it was infeasible to check all of these.
2008/9 Wikipedia Selection for schools (via Waxy)


  1. Rarely is the question asked, “Is our children learning” about AT&T, GlaxoSmithKline, the Mini (BMW), Sony, or Steve Jobs? This Wiki project makes sure that they are learning about Jesus (but not Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism, or even Judaism). Confucianism is also nowhere to be found…

    Yet our children, somewhat inexplicably, is learning about the phrase “All your base are belong to us.”

    Subject index here:

    I’m sure that we all would have made somewhat different selections, but come on!

  2. So is this edited version able to keep me from spending four hours reading anime and sci-fi summaries?

  3. Not a Doktor:

    For best results, try the Wikipedia for Catholic Schools. It is the same data plus a peevish nun and a yardstick.

  4. So, um, does Wikipedia have expert review yet? If not, why are they still calling themselves an encyclopedia? (Their own definition of an Encyclopedia requires expert review?)

    But this is more than the denture-grinding of a smelly old coot!

    Reviews of Wikipedia find that at any given time, many of their articles contain factual errors.

    So we’re giving kids “free” content which is, perhaps, 10% incorrect, and a further 10-20% containing mentions of which Simpsons and Buffy the Vampire Slayer episodes mention the topic at hand?

    Um, why am I supposed to be excited by this, again?

  5. @2 mneptok — oh, okay, when I clicked on the link the top part didn’t show and I just saw “The content can be navigated using a pictorial subject index, or a title word index of all topics” and I guess I thought the pictorial index was an index of pictures. My bad. I just went to the “title word index of all topics: which I guess it was not.

    @3 WallOfInsanity – I wish I could have been living where you have been living, lo these last 8 years…

    Thanks @8 Darren Garrison.

  6. …And the bad part? A lot of the non-science genre articles have been misedited and vandalized by ctmts and trolls who’ve used their own antisocial networking to gain admin powers.

  7. #10: Om, making wild generalisations about a single incident is not the mark of someone who knows much about Wikipedia or who is capable of making good edits to it.

    #7: I don’t know. The Nature study on science articles seemed to indicate that Britannica was (far) less than perfect itself. I think there’s just too much knowledge for there to be a 100% accurate, comprehensive encyclopaedia any more, no matter how many experts you get working on it. I think we should just be glad kids have access to anything at all, and depend on their own ability to sort out the inaccuracies.

  8. i just think it’s amazing that i can fit 20 volumes onto a $50 memory card the size of my fingernail. 20 years ago, 20 volumes would have been fit in… 20 volumes.

  9. I would like to add that in writing a dissertation and I have done extensive research on a certain 19th c. person — gone to her archives, been to her home, as well as read everything extant written by and about her.

    The article written by an “expert” for the Encyclopedia Britannica had almost every fact wrong. It was clear that the person who wrote the article had relied exclusively on 2 articles written in the 1980s.

    I wrote to the EB with suggestions for corrections as well as documents that showed how the article was wrong. It has been 2 years and the article in the EB online is still filled with the same erroneous information. The Wikipedia article is actually much better.

  10. “#10: Om, making wild generalisations about a single incident is not the mark of someone who knows much about Wikipedia or who is capable of making good edits to it.”

    …Except it’s not one single incident. It’s dozens and perhaps hundreds of them. Wikipedia is a situation where the inmates run the asylum and at the same time determine who gets in the gates. Even Jimbo Wales admits the process by which admin rights are granted is flawed, and that many admins have achieved their powers through what can best be described as a “clique” methodology.

    1. I’ve observed that the length and belligerence of the discussion page seems to have a perfect inverse relationship to the significance of the topic.

  11. @16 Antinous

    It’s grant / fellowship / scholarship / post doc application season. Tensions are high and fighting over insignificant things is one way people let off steam. The more insignificant the better actually…

    1. And yet, there’s that one guy who quietly plugs away writing article after article about obscure catfish genera.

  12. #15: From the sounds of it, what you’re describing is the following:

    1. A knowledgeable but novice editor makes contributions to a page on Wikipedia.
    2. A more experienced but possibly less knowledgeable editor has some problem with the contributions and reverts them.
    3. The knowledgeable novice assumes the other editor was an admin, because s(he) used official sounding jargon, and leaves in a huff.

    Admins comprise a relatively small proportion of the regular contributors to Wikipedia. They have the ability to protect/unprotect pages, and to ban/unban users, but that’s about it. Any editor can make changes to an article, including reverting recent changes. Editors who are more familiar with Wikipedia will do so more confidently, and newcomers may mistakenly think they are admins.

    In the scenario above, there should be a step 4, wherein the novice user checks the reason for the revert, and tries to enter into discussions with the reverter to come to consensus as to how the facts in question should be presented. Frequently text is removed because it makes unreferenced claims, doesn’t follow style guidelines or doesn’t properly fall within the subject area of the article in question. Sometimes editors get over-zealous in their removal of text (or are just plain idiots). In this case, there is a dispute resolution process

    Of course, outright reversion should be saved for contributions that are of no value whatsoever. If there are problems, and it’s a useful contribution to the article, then efforts should be undertaken to fix the problems. It’s also supposed to be a guideline not to bite the newcomers.

    If you could provide a link to the situation in question, I could try to explain it (and maybe even fix it.) :)

    You can get to the edit history of a page by clicking on the history link at the top. From there, you can copy the link to the specific revisions you made.

    #16: Would that be on WP or BB? (Or both … ?) ;)

  13. #18: The coverage of obscure genera (of just about everything) is one of Wikipedia’s best features!

    Coupled with people contributing their vacation photos, it’s meant that a lot of critter pages are illustrated, too. :)

  14. Don’t forget that this is a DVD and the final articles went through a huge editing process before the final version was released. The problems associated with the online WP don’t really apply here. I’ve been editing on WP for a couple of years now. Most of the problems mentioned in the other posts are true enough and #19 pretty muich sums it up well. There’s a huge learning curve when starting to edit Wikipedia. Often, new users get frustrated and leave after the first few edits. I almost gave up right away myself. But I just plugged away. I mostly edit on visual art articles and since there are so few editors doing that, let alone articles on Canadian art, I felt that I was actually contributing something and that kept me going. BUt I do understand the criticisms and many are quite valid. What makes WP great is also it’s greatest weakness: because anyone can edit, anyone will edit. There’s a small dedicated group that tend to keep things in check, but stuff happens. Vandalism is actually a pretty minor thing: most of it gets reverted. It’s the self-promotion and political agendas that tend to be the more serious issues.

  15. Woh woh woh!

    “External links and references are also not included since it was infeasible to check all of these.”

    I love wikipedia but the whole point of it is to collect information together and allow you to check the references yourself to make sure you trust the infomation given.

    This schools release will teach kids that Wikiepedia *is* your reference rather than a means to find your reference.

    Grumble grumble.

  16. @22

    Unfortunately, most students already believe that Wikipedia is the last word on most things. I teach at a few universities and I always begin the semester with a quick discussion of WP. Wikipedia is a tertiary source and should be treated as such. It’s not academic and should never be used for university-level research. The worst articles, or most trivial, tend to look amateurish and would be ignored by most readers anyway. It’s the articles that look authoritative that are perhaps a bit dangerous. Adding references (even if the don’t actually relate to the article) on first glance give an article a great deal of validity. If the article doesn’t cover generally common knowledge, if the information sounds plausible, and, there appear to be plenty of references tfo back it up (way easy to fake), a casual reader may take the info at face value. However, I do believe the DVD doesn’t suffer from this.

  17. “If you could provide a link to the situation in question, I could try to explain it (and maybe even fix it.) :)”

    …Tell you what, eliminate every revert that Will ‘Sceptre’ Noble, Matthew Fenton, ‘Can’t Sleep, Clown Will Eat Me’, Alkivar, and anyone associated with them, and you’re off to a good start. Check out the damage they did to the Jericho, Lost and other genre pages fr grt xmpls f wht hppns whn ctmts cnspr t gv ch thr spprt fr dmn rghts.

  18. #24: Well, just for reference I’ve had a look at Can’t sleep, clown will eat me’s contributions, and it looks like they are mostly reverts, but of vandalism carried out by anonymous users. A lot of that vandalism is quite subtle, and it’s entirely possible that sometimes things get reverted that were real work, but really, if you want to make a serious contribution to WP you should preferably create an account but at least become familiar with the style guide. That’s fairly standard practice for writing anywhere else (besides blogs).

    A lot of work in Wikipedia goes into keeping articles on popular culture subjects (especially television series) encyclopaedic and relevant. There’s an essay discussing that here. I think you may find that it covers some of your issues.

    Also, homophobic remarks are likely to be particularly unwelcome on BB (although all forms of bigotry tend to get disemvowelled), and add nothing useful to your argument.

  19. Om: WTF? You’ve got this habit now, it seems, of swiping at muslims and now gay people in a manner that can’t be written off to your understandable personal sufferings. What is going on in your life?

  20. As a former editor of Wikipedia I can tell you this a very very bad idea. After thousands of edits I left Wikipedia due to bureaucracy and and idiotic rules. It can literally take years to fix an article due to infighting and the lack of authority. When everything is controlled by community and consensus nothing can get done. Case in point one of the most controversial articles amongst editors is the Santa Claus article. The over reliance on obscure and arbitrary notability guidelines is also getting increasingly out of control.

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