Thursday, June 21, 2012

Improve Your Search Skills with These Challenges

Daniel Russell is a Google employee who studies how people search on the Internet. He's a search anthropologist. I had the pleasure of meeting him and learning from him at the Google Teacher Academy that I attended in 2009.

On his blog Search ReSearch Daniel Russell posts search challenges for readers to try. Then a few days later he explains how to solve the challenges. The challenges are not challenges that you could solve with just a basic query or even if you used the built-in Google Advanced Search tools.

Applications for Education
If you want to become a better web researcher and pass those skills on to your students, try Daniel Russell's search challenges. If you can handle his challenges, try writing your own challenges for students.

Daniel Russell's search challenges are also  posted on Life Hacker which is where I saw this week's challenge solved

Redefine Possible

This post has nothing to do with technology, Web 2.0, or anything that I normally write about. This post is simply to share an inspirational story that I found today on The Adventure Blog. Spencer West is a double amputee from Toronto, Canada who this week completed a climb of Mount Kilimanjaro on his hands. In the process he  raised more than $500,000 for the charity Free The Children. Spencer West's motto is Redefine Possible. You can follow his blog here. The video below is just a snippet of Spencer's climb.

A History of the World in 100 Objects and Podcasts

A History of the World in 100 Objects is a one hundred episode podcast series from the BBC. Each podcast in the series examines an object from The British Museum. The podcasts explain each object's significance in history. Each episode in the series is about fifteen minutes in length. Some of the objects featured in the series include an Egyptian clay model of cattle, an Arabian bronze hand, and The David Vases.

Applications for Education
A History of the World in 100 Objects could be a good companion to the BBC's History of the World interactive object timeline. Students can listen to the podcasts and look for the objects on the timeline. The podcasts could be good supplementary materials for a multimedia history ebook.

H/T to Open Culture.

BigMarker Updates Their Free Web Conferencing Tools

BigMarker is a free web conferencing service that I tried last year. This week some nice enhancements were added to BigMarker. The major change to BigMarker is the redesign of the web conference rooms to make them simpler and more intuitive to use. To make listening to conferences easier, you no longer have to have a headset to use BigMarker and you can now listen to conferences (but not start them) on your Android device.

Applications for Education
Big Marker could be a great tool for conducting online tutoring sessions and lessons. Students working on collaborative projects could use Big Marker to brainstorm and plan for completion of their projects. As a professional development resource Big Marker could be useful for facilitating workshops online.

Use Storybricks to Create Stories in Virtual Worlds

I sign up for a lot of beta and alpha invite lists. Often I completely forget about them shortly after signing up only to later wonder, "how the heck did I get on this list?" That pattern did not apply to Storybricks. When I received an email from them on Tuesday, I was excited to be able to finally try out their online platform for creating MMO stories.

Storybricks is a new service (still in alpha mode) for creating multilayered online stories. Storybricks works online if you have the Unity web player installed. Storybricks provides you with settings and characters that you can use to weave a narrative. All of your characters can have emotions and relationships with other characters. You make the emotions of one character respond to the actions of another.

The "bricks" aspect of Storybricks refers to the way in which you construct your stories. To build your stories you assemble "bricks" or blocks that represent emotions actions for each character. You can develop many different sets of actions and emotions for each character. And as mentioned above, your characters can be connected to each other.

Applications for Education
Storybricks is still in alpha so there are plenty of glitches in it. When those glitches are gone using Storybricks be a great way for students to get engaged in crafting narratives that they can see played out before them.