Monday, January 13, 2014

Create Your Own Wolfram Alpha Widgets

The computational search service Wolfram Alpha offers a neat widget building tool. The Wolfram Alpha widget builder will allow anyone to create a computational search widget. Once created the widgets can easily be embedded into Blogger, WordPress, and just about any other website or blog service. Published widgets appear in a gallery that is accessible to anyone that registers with Wolfram Alpha. I recommend that before you create your own widget you take a look at the gallery of widgets to get a sense of the possibilities and to see if a widget already exists for the task you have in mind.

Creating a Wolfram Alpha Widget is a fairly straight-forward process. To get started, enter a search phrase such as "distance from Boston to New York in inches." In the second step you define the variables for your widget. This second step is the crucial step that I had to try a few times before I got it right. After completing step two, the rest of the process is a simple matter of selecting the output format, widget theme, and writing a description of the widget.

Applications for Education
The Wolfram Alpha Widget Builder could be a great tool for teachers and students to build custom conversion widgets and other data-based search widgets. Teachers can place the widgets into their blogs for students to use to check their computations or to simply access computational information from one site.