Won't Be Fooled Again ...

8/04/2006 10:15:00 am

A number of people, myself included, when giving workshops about wikis in education point to the South African Curriculum wiki. In the last 2 months I've met a few South African educators and commented that I thought putting their national curriculum on a wiki was a rather bold thing to do.

After I finished explaining what a wiki is, every one of them expressed disbelief that the government of South Africa was actually behind such a thing. So, I did some digging ...

The South African Curriculum is not on a wiki. Here is the wiki everyone has linked to.

Looking at it a little more closely, it appears to be an initiative started by an individual or small group. It is sparsely populated with content and largely incomplete. I only really looked at the math section from which it is clear that at least that part of the curriculum is incomplete. Note also that it is a project of Wikibooks, "a collection of open content textbooks. This site is a wiki, meaning that anyone, including you, can edit any book ..." (You can learn more about Wikibooks here.)

Here is the Government of South Africa's Department of Education website. There are no direct links to curriculum.

A South African (textbook?) publisher has a summary of the new South African Curriculum implementation from 2004 and lists the curricular outcomes here.

The South African Government has a summary of their new curriculum for 2005 here but there are no detailed descriptions of learning outcomes.

You can register (free) to access all the South African Curriculum resources here but I had a hard time finding a listing of their curricular outcomes. When (if?) you register, do a "keyword search" (top right hand corner of page) for "curriculum" and you'll hit several curriculum documents.

Whenever I talk about wikis in workshops I have given I always emphasize the importance of verifying information from multiple sources. "Wikipedia is just a starting point for inquiry." I have seen, heard and given a number of presentations referencing the South African Curriculum wiki as though it were a credible source. I don't know that it is. I would have to compare the list of specific resources and documents I found on the government site to the wiki to be sure. I haven't done that yet.

I learned something important here. Verifying information on wikis using multiple sources is for everyone. I won't make the same mistake twice. ;-)

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  1. The wiki is, I believe, a project of the Shuttleworth Foundation.

    Whether or not it is complete or not depends on your perception of what it is supposed to be. South Africa imported "outcomes based education" from the US post-apartheid. The document outlines the outcomes which define the curriculum.

    Has much been done with it? No. But that's the way wikis tend to work. Only a small percentage spontaneously gather an active audience.

  2. I use that site too in my presentations as an example of what could be done. (I've been using it since Tom, I think it was, blogged about his boss presenting about it.) I've taken to clicking through to the wikibooks site and showing the history of changes to all of the books in creation on the site to hopefully give some context, again, for the way this could work and what could be done. I find it pretty inspiring, and will continue to show it as it's the concept and not necessarily the product in this case.

  3. I completely agree that it's important to remember that all information has to be checked for accuracy and verified. I write lesson plans for one organization that doesn't allow wikis to be used as resources for teachers. Their content experts, who are academicians, argue that wiki can't be trusted. I completely disagree. Wikis can contain very reliable information. But like all sources the information must be verified.

    Andrew Pass

  4. Anonymous6/8/06 13:49

    Tom: The Suttleworth Foundation has a wiki. The front page has been spammed on July 11, 14, and August 4 and hasn't yet been repaired. The last time the spam was repaired was May 1. There is a page that deals with the South African curriculum called iCommonsiCurriculum. It contains no links to the wiki I linked to in my post which is the same one linked to from many wiki presentations. That wiki is clearly a project of wikibooks and I remain unconvinced that anyone from the South African Ministry of Education endorses this project.

    Will: I too will continue to link to the wiki in my presentations as, like you, I think the idea behind the project is inspiring. I will also use this wiki to illustrate the importance of using multiple sources to verify information and will be explicit regarding my doubts that it is a governmentally endorsed project. I feel that omiting to include such a comment would be misleading.

    Andrew: Like you I think wikis have a valuable place in education as resources, projects and sources of information. But it is important that students (and teachers) learn to use multiple sources to verify information. Not just on wikis, but in the main stream press as well. Something I mentioned in my last presenation on RSS in my Whiplash! workshop. (Listen to the most recent audio file beginning at 8 minutes 50 seconds.)

  5. Just checking how are the things in Canada and within your students

    Hi Darren, don’t ask me why, but today I was around web and have remember your blog, and your students, hence I just decide to check if everything is all right. I think it is.
    Best regards from Portugal.

    Regina Nabais

  6. This is such a great example to give to students as we teach the importance of investigating sources. Wikis do have to be investigated to see who made them and they can look deceivingly accurate.

    I think they should be put on equal footing with other web pages and evaluated as such. It is also vital that multiple sources be checked out.

    Hindsight is 20/20. It takes a person of character such as you seem to be to investigate something and admit something like this. It gives you great credibility with your readers.