Sun 2010 Nov 14
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When I first saw Qwiki(pronounced quickie) in a Twitter feed a few days ago, I didn’t mind it as there were(I thought) more interesting items at that time; more interesting and cool tools to learn about tweeted by renowned professionals in the EdTech field. Then yesterday I was sidelined by a fever and had to beg off from a Saturday afternoon commitment in school. It was late Friday night in the US and the Twitter feed was sluggish. So I found Qwiki again via Lazyscope and was attracted by the page. Visiting it, I found that Qwiki is in Alpha and you get to try it out only if you get invited. So I entered my email address and requested for an invitation. I received a confirmation email and was told to wait for login credentials to be able to play around with the site. I received the certification today after about 24 hours.
It has been 3 hours since I first visited the site and I’m still on it liking what I’m seeing… and hearing. It is Wikipedia come to life via text-to-speech and slide presentations. Qwiki’s pitch: The Information Experience… You just don’t get information on a page to read, you experience it via images and audio.
It’s a good source to find out about places, people, events and things. Since it is still in Alpha, feedback is solicited and it is still hopeful that more can be done with it. At the moment, there are 2 million individual entries on their database. It’s integration with Google Maps and presenting timelines when there are dates involved are definitely pluses. And it suggests Qwikis related to your subject.
It’s far from perfect but having images moving around in sync with text-to-speech is indeed an experience. Be one of the first to try it out. The Alpha release is only on it’s 20th day today. Request for an invite here.
Sun 2010 Oct 31
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For some, using the internet for researching a specific topic is distracting. A common case is when you encounter terminology you are not familiar with, you leave the page and do a separate search and before you know it, you have clicked too far away from your original site. Some web publishers call this a “search leak”. A user leaves a page when he craves for more information, opens another tab and does another search. A way to plug that leak is to have an ‘instant search’ without leaving the original page and therefore is more engaged and with lesser possibility of being ‘distracted’.
Enter Apture Highlights. A free browser extension that gives you “instantaneous search” on any website. Keeping up with the Halloween theme, I Googled Dracula and was led to a Romanian Tourism site which had an article about the Dracula legend. Reading on, I found an item which I wanted to know more about. I highlight it, and because I have the Apture Highlights extension installed on my Chrome browser, this is what I saw:
And when I clicked “Learn More”, I was presented with this:
More information about the phrase I highlighted, and I did not need to open up a Google tab or window for it. Go to Apture and download the extension. Available for Chrome, Firefox and Safari users. I learned about this from Richard Byrne.
Sun 2010 Oct 17
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Let’s say you brought your students to the computer laboratory, or used one of the roving Mac labs for a research activity in class. You also know that for some students, searching the net is distracting and because of this, you want to guide them in their research activity. When preparing for this particular session, you have visited and listed down or bookmarked the URLs of relevant websites. In class, you flash the different web addresses of the sites you want your students to visit on the board. And the students start working.
Great! The students are engaged and you go around the room supervising. But wait a minute, how did your students manage to visit your suggested sites? Did they have to type a long string every time they need to go to the next web address on your list? Sure, there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s just that, there could be better and faster ways to do it. Yes you guessed it right, by using a URL shortener. So instead of typing, say: http://www.universetoday.com/75663/how-nasa-helped-rescue-the-chilean-miners/ you could just type: http://fur.ly/2j3e and arrive at the same site. Students will just need to type 18 characters instead of 76 for this particular site. Cool, huh? What’s more, there are plenty of URL shortening sites to choose from. Here’s an exhaustive list: http://fur.ly/2j3o
But here’s something cooler. Just one short URL for multiple sites. Yes just one. You as the teacher just need to type all the URLs in one page then generate one short web address. The students just visit this one web address that you supplied and they can browse all the sites you want them to look at. Here’s an example I made. This is about the stirring rescue of the Chilean miners last week. Just click on the shortened web address and you’ll be led to the five sites I listed: http://krunchd.com/c0a869 (you will find left and right arrows on the upper right hand corner of the page to navigate).
Go get your short URL for multiple websites at http://krunchd.com. The site actually has more features like editing your list or allowing others to edit your list for collaborative work. The generated short URL could be emailed or shared through networking sites.
This is not to say that teachers should be using this all the time. As we also want our students to find resources on their own by doing a proper search.