Friday, January 27, 2012

Oolone - A Visual Search Engine That I Can Now Recommend

Earlier this week a few ed tech bloggers reported on a new visual search engine called Oolone. I, of course, had to check it out for myself. I liked what I saw on Oolone except there was one thing that kept me from writing about it. That one thing was a button in the upper-left corner of the homepage that said "adult filter." Yes, Google, Bing, and Yahoo also have adult content filters, but they don't make it so prominent that it screams out to an adolescent "click me! click me! turn me off!" Therefore, I didn't want to share Oolone with you.

Fast forward a few days to this morning when I received an email from one of the founders of Oolone asking me for my feedback. I shared with him, what you just read in the previous paragraph. He wrote back a few minutes later asking for my suggestion on changing the filter setting and location. I replied with a suggestion and not thirty minutes later he wrote back telling me that the changes had been implemented. I'm told you all of that to tell you this, I now think that Oolone is a suitable visual search engine for student use.

Oolone is a search engine that displays results in a four square grid of webpage previews. Rather than getting a list of results that have just a link and a few line summary, Oolone gives you the entire webpage to preview before you click through. Oolone can be used for standard website search, for image search, or news search. If you're the type that likes to use browser plug-ins, Oolone offers a Chrome plug-in.

Applications for Education
Oolone's display could help students sort through search results a bit quicker. Without having to leave the search results page students can view the previews and determine the likelihood that a webpage will be of use to them. This might not be an issue is a 1:1 setting in which students always have access to computers or tablets, but in a school in which students only get to use computers in a lab or library saving a little time on search could be helpful in maximizing their computer use times.

Learn How to Build a Search Engine

Udacity is offering a new, free seven week Computer Science 101 course. The course promises to teach you everything you need to know to build a search engine like Google or Yahoo even if you don't have any prior programming knowledge. The course is open for enrollment right now and starts on February 20, 2012. You can view the syllabus now and watch the promotional video featuring the instructors below.

Alien Buddies - An iPad App for Learning Shapes, Numbers, Letters

Alien Buddies is an iPad and iPhone app designed for pre-k students to practice recognizing shapes, letters, and numbers. The app provides leveled games in which students practice recognizing patterns and sequences. The activities for recognizing letters and numbers have audio and visual prompting modes. Alien Buddies normally costs $1.99 but I received an email from the app's publisher informing me that it is available for free today, January 27th.

A Google Maps Lesson Idea - Seasonings Around the World

On Wednesday morning I came across a neat article on NPR titled A Trip Around the World, By Way of Seasonings. The article is part of a series of recipes that call for using spices from places all over the world. The article gave me an idea for a Google Maps project in world history classes.

As any history teacher knows, discovering new travel routes for the spice trade was one of the motivations for early explorers. The idea I had was to have students research where those spices came from, which explorers went where, and plot that information on a Google Map or in Google Earth. Students using Google Earth could create a narrated tour of the world using the information that they include in their placemarks.

For directions on creating placemarks and tours in Google Maps and Google Earth, please visit my collection of Google tutorials.

Frozen Planet - An Interactive Exploration of the Poles

The Open University is a fantastic place to discover all kinds of valuable educational materials. From time to time I find myself getting lost in the content both on The Open University's website and The Open University's various YouTube channels. I was doing just that recently when I discovered Frozen Planet: Explore the Polar Regions.

Frozen Planet: Explore the Polar Regions features an interactive display through which you can view the history of polar exploration and the science of the polar regions. The interactive display is created through the use of the Google Earth browser plug-in and a timeline. You can click along the timeline to see and read placemarks on Google Earth. You can browse through and click on a list of important places in both polar regions. For further investigation and analysis of the polar regions you can activate a number of Google Earth layers within the Frozen Planet display. The display also includes videos about each region although the playlist for the Antarctic region is much longer than the playlist for the Arctic region.

Applications for Education
Frozen Planet: Explore the Polar Regions could be a good resource for both science and history teachers. In fact, Frozen Planet could be the basis for an interdisciplinary unit at the middle school or high school level.

Here's a fun fact that I learned through Frozen Planet: Explore the Polar Regions, five years after being the first person to stand on top of Mount Everest Sir Edmund Hillary was part of the team that completed the first complete crossing of Antarctica .

New Google in Education Ebook and Website

Yesterday, the Google Apps for Education team published a new ebook (PDF) titled A New and Open World for Learning. A New and Open World for Learning is all about using Google's products and services in education. The ebook is clearly a marketing vehicle for Google Apps for Education, but you will find some good examples of and ideas for using Google apps in your school.

As part of the same announcement in which A New and Open World for Learning was released, Google also announced a revamped Google in Education website. The aspects of Google in Education that are probably of most interest to classroom teachers are the lesson plan index and the classroom tools index. The classroom tools index provides links to information about each of the services available to teachers and students. In the classroom tools index you'll find some tutorial or how-to resources.