Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Shelfster - A New Tool for Organizing Research

Shelfster is a new research and writing tool that I learned about from Vicki Davis earlier this week before trying it out myself this afternoon. The purpose of Shelfster is to help you bookmark and annotate websites and documents that you find while researching a topic. You can organize your findings into Shelfster projects. Within each of your projects you can create documents by dragging and dropping links and texts into your documents from your list of saved links. Of course, you can also type in your documents and edit things that you dragged from your project library to your documents. Documents can be saved in your online account, downloaded, and printed.

Shelfster offers an iPad and iPhone app for bookmarking and annotating items to save in your projects. Shelfster also has browser bookmarklets and browser extensions for bookmarking and annotating materials in Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, and Opera (sorry Safari fans, it seems Shelfster doesn't support that yet). You can also use Shelfster as a desktop app on Mac and Windows computers.

Applications for Education
Shelfster has the potential to be a good service to help students organize the useful content they find on the Internet. I'm not sure that I'd have students write an entire research paper within Shelfster yet, but it could definitely be a good place to construct an outline of a research paper. Shelfster says that integration with Google Docs is coming in the future. When that happens then I might have students use Shelfster for writing an entire research paper that could be easily shared for peer editing.

Find That File Helps You Locate Documents and Media Files

Find That File is a search engine designed to help you locate documents and media files according to file type. Let's say you want to locate an audio recording of Harry Truman announcing the surrender of Germany in 1945. You can enter your search term in Find That File then specify exactly what type of audio file you want to locate.

Applications for Education
If you have students developing multimedia projects in which they're going to sample or remix various audio and video files, Find That File could be helpful in locating files that are compatible with their projects. Find That File does offer a search widget that you can embed in your course blog or website. Click here to learn more about Find That File and to locate their search widget.

MSN Offers for Schools - A New Way to Fundraise

MSN Offers for Schools offers a new way for school groups to conduct fundraising operations. Rather than trying to sell wrapping paper, candy, or other things that people really don't want fundraising with MSN Offers for Schools takes the approach of encouraging people to shop at local businesses. Here how it works, the school registers with MSN Offers for Schools, local businesses offer special deals, then when someone takes advantage of that deal the school gets a percentage of the sale. The video below provides an overview of the process.

MSN Offers for Schools Introduction from MSN Offers for Schools on Vimeo.
Applications for Education
I once counted the number of fundraisers run by groups in my school district. I can't remember the exact number, but it was well over one hundred for the year. In our small community, that's what we call market saturation. Really, how many rolls of overpriced wrapping paper can one person buy? MSN Offers for Schools could be a good alternative way to fundraise without having to convince a saturated market to buy more wrapping paper, candles, or other random trinkets.

Another alternative fundraiser you might want to investigate is iGive's fundraising program.

FDR Day by Day - Lesson Plans and More

I was recently contacted by a representative of The Pare Lorentz Center at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum. The Pare Lorentz Center has published some nice resources for teaching about FDR's presidency and historical events occurring during his presidency.

Franklin D. Roosevelt Day by Day is a timeline of Roosevelt's presidency. The timeline features White House schedules and diaries from each day of Roosevelt's presidency. The timeline isn't just a list of schedules. The timeline also includes short articles and some images about significant events that happened during each month of Roosevelt's presidency.

The FDR Presidential Library has a YouTube channel containing one hundred video clips. The videos contain archival footage of Roosevelt, his family, and news reels shot during FDR's presidency. To support your use of these video clips the Roosevelt Presidential Library has created a series of free curriculum guides. The curriculum guides are divided into five units of study; World War II, Supreme Court, Farm Security Administration, Tuskegee Airmen, and Social Security.

Applications for Education
If you're looking for documents, videos, or lesson plans for teaching about topics related to WWII, the Great Depression, or FDR in general, The Pare Lorentz Center is a good place to start your search.

Interactive Pearl Harbor Attack Map

Today marks the 70th anniversary of Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor that brought the United States into WWII. I posted some resources for teaching about Pearl Harbor here.

National Geographic has a good resource students can explore to learn about the attack on Pearl Harbor. The Interactive Pearl Harbor Attack Map is a map and timeline accompanied by voice narration. Each stop along the timeline of the attack is accompanied by a short narrated passage. At each stop students can click on the map to read more information about that place and moment in the chronology of the attack.

Applications for Education
National Geographic's Interactive Pearl Harbor Attack Map is a good example of how digital media can be better than print media of learning about some topics. The Interactive Pearl Harbor Map contains at least as much information about Pearl Harbor as a standard middle school textbook, but also provides support for struggling readers and provides visual geographic context for the information presented.

Now Google Graphs - Kind Of

On Monday Google announced that you can now search for a mathematical function and have an interactive graph generated at the top of your search results. You can zoom in on the graph and explore each function in detail.

Applications for Education
I'm not sure if this new feature in Google Search is a direct move toward taking some market share from Wolfram Alpha or not. Either way, while the new function graphs from Google could be useful for students to see what a function does, if you really want to learn about functions I'll still steer you toward Wolfram Alpha.