Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Cover letter for Wikipedia For Schools

I was asked by a school principal to prepare a letter describing the Wikipedia For Schools so the school trustees can get to know about it before giving their permission to install in in their computer lab. This is where a realization dawned : I had till then just assumed I'd pass on the URL and whoever needs to know will see it and know. It's not so, and I'm glad I was made to sit and create a cover letter as it solidified the initiative. I'm sharing the cover letter here. Please evaluate it and give any recommendations in the comments section.

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Date: 9th February 2011
Respected Sir / Madam,
Sub: Permission to install Wikipedia For Schools Offline Edition in computer lab

I am a Teach For India volunteer and will be joining TFI as a fellow this year (2011-13). I'm presently involved with a grassroots volunteer project where we want to spread an offline version of Wikipedia (largest online encyclopedia in the world), specifically made for school children from ages 8 to 17, to schools all over the country. For details please visit http://www.tinyurl.com/WFSOE

I would like to request permission to install this encyclopedia in the computer lab of your respected institution so that the students and teachers can benefit from it. There are no costs or charges involved.

The package is of 2.7GBs size and can be easily installed or copied from a DVD or a USB Drive to any computer in under 10 minutes. The software running it is Kiwix (http://www.kiwix.org), an open source free reader created for this purpose. We may need to also install "Microsoft Visual C++ 2008 drivers" (included, free) to make it run properly on older computers. Wikipedia For Schools is distributed for free and non-commercial use for spreading to schools around the world. Below is a paragraph quoted from their press release on http://www.soschildrensvillages.org.uk/charity-news/archive/2008/10/2008-wikipedia-for-schools :
Press Release: Wikipedia for Schools
Oct 22, 2008 12:00 PM
SOS Children UK, in coordination with the Wikimedia Foundation, has released a complete 2008/9 revision of the Wikipedia Selection for Schools, which is perhaps the most successful "checked content" project derived from the English Wikipedia. Previous revisions have been distributed off-line widely across the globe including by the Shuttleworth Foundation to South Africa Schools, by the Hole in the Wall project to rural Indian children and through SOS offices worldwide. The updated selection has the content of a 20 volume encyclopaedia - with 34,500 pictures, 20 million words and articles on more than 5500 topics….
….SOS Children's Villages is best known as the world's largest orphan charity (UK Charity No. 1069204) but is also a very large educational charity running 192 schools with 91,000 pupils in the developing world. See www.soschildren.org

To check the contents of this encyclopedia, you can visit http://schools-wikipedia.org which is an online version of the same package. This project has been successfully implemented in Shantabai Ladkat English Medium School in Nanapeth, Pune (contact: TFI Fellow Moiz, 9819117826). I look forward working with your esteemed institution on this project.

Yours Faithfully,
Nikhil Sheth
Teach For India Fellow, 2011-13
Previously working with Tata Consultancy Services Ltd.
Contact:  966-583-1250, nikhil.js@gmail.com
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..So... ok??

Points to note:
1. I want to give them a complete and honest picture of what will be going into their computers, so they don't tell later that "Hey, you didn't tell us about this!".
2. The non-commercial, moneyless nature of the project is to be stressed and specified as early as possible so they can be assured that no one is after their school's limited money.
3. The persons we're working with may only have a rudimentary knowledge of computers. They typically are very fearful of viruses, are prone to labeling anything that doesn't work at first try as having "virus". One teacher informed me there was a virus in her comp because she couldn't get through the account creation stage of gmail successfully. (this is one of the reasons we must spread an encyclopedia - to inform people and dispel rumors)
4. The text above is already a one-full-pager so no more additions please - suggest replacements and deletions only if you must.

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