Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Mashpedia, the Real-time Encylopedia, Adds Qwiki Element

Mashpedia is a real-time encyclopedia that publishes reference pages comprised of information from the social web. Each Mashpedia page pulls information from sources like Flickr, Twitter, Wikipedia, and blogs. Recently Mashpedia added a Qwiki element to their service. Qwiki, as you may recall from this post, is a multimedia encyclopedia that contains narrated overviews of more than three million topics.

Applications for Education
The combination of Mashpedia and Qwiki provides students with a wealth of current information about millions of topics. Mashpedia was designed with current events stories in mind, but it also offers a lot of good resources about topics that aren't as rapidly developing.

Behind the Lindbergh Legend - Snag Learning Film of the Week

This week's Snag Learning Film of the Week is Across the Atlantic: Behind the Lindbergh Legend. This National Geographic produced film uses a mixture of archival footage and reenactments to tell the story of Charles Lindbergh and his first flight across the Atlantic Ocean. The film and accompanying discussion questions can be found here.
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Applications for Education
This film not only tells the story of Lindbergh but also provides some good material for learning about the larger context of life in the 1920's.  

Five Ways to Make Word Clouds from Text

Wordlings is a new service for creating word clouds from blocks of text. Sign into Wordlings with your Twitter or Facebook account to have it create a word cloud of your posts. You can also copy and paste chunks of text into Wordlings. Wordlings allows you to choose from a large variety of shapes and sizes for displaying your word clouds.

Tagul is a free word cloud generator that offers the option to link every word in your word cloud to a Google search. Click on any word in your word cloud to be taken directly to a Google search results page for that word. Tagul creates a word cloud from text you copy into your Tagul account. Tagul will also generate a word cloud from any url you specify. Just as you can with other word cloud generators, Tagul allows you to specify words to ignore in creating your word clouds. Once your word cloud is created Tagul provides you with an embed code to put your cloud on your blog or website.

Word It Out creates word clouds out of any text that you paste into the word cloud generator. Once the word cloud is created you can customize the size and color scheme of the cloud. You can also customize the font used in your word cloud. The feature of Word It Out that I like the best is that you can choose to have Word It Out ignore any word or words you choose. Ignoring words keeps them out of the word cloud.

Tagxedo makes it very easy to customize the design of your word clouds. You can select from a variety of shapes in which to display words or you can design your shape for your word cloud. You can enter text into the word cloud generator manually or simply enter a url from which Tagxedo will generate a word cloud. As with other word cloud generators you also have options for excluding words from your word clouds.

Amongst educators Wordle is probably the most famous word cloud generator. Wordle provides many options for color, shapes, and fonts for displaying your word clouds. A couple of years ago Tom Barrett started an Interesting Ways presentation about using Wordle in the classroom. That presentation now has 51 ideas. Check it out below.

Gulf of Mexico One Year Later

Today is the one year anniversary of the start of the Gulf of Mexico BP Oil Spill. One year later the Gulf of Mexico is still recovering. Here are a few resources for learning about the state of the Gulf of Mexico one year after the spill.

CNN Student News leads off today with a segment about the oil spill and the clean up efforts that are still in place.

The New York Times has a four minute video chronicling the efforts of scientists to determine the long-term ecological effects of the oil spill.

The most visually impressive resource about the oil spill is the Atlantic's 39 image photo essay The Gulf Oil Disaster: One Year Later.

On a related note, the Sierra Club film The Day the Water Died, although a bit dated, chronicles the impact of the Exxon Valdez oil spill on the people of Alaska.