Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The European Word Translator Puts Language Into Geographic Context

The European Word Translator is a map and translation tool created by UK Data Explorer. Type a word or phrase into the map's search tool and the translations appear over the countries in their respective official languages.

Applications for Education
Before you  use the European Word Translator in your classroom you should be aware that it does rely on the Google Translate API. Google Translate is known to have some errors (some of my favorite errors occur when translating Icelandic into English).  That said, the map offers a neat way to get some geographic context for languages.

H/T to Google Maps Mania

Google Improves Image Search Tools Menu

Thanks to a Tweet from Matt Cutts, the head of the webspam team at Google, I learned that the tool bar in Google Images now includes "usage rights." Now instead of having to open the advanced search menu you can just click the "search tools" menu and select "usage rights" without leaving the search results page. Screenshots of the two steps are included below.

Step 1:
click image for full size

Step 2:
click image for full size

The New Google Drive Activity Stream Shows You All Activities In One Place

Beginning today Google Drive users have a new option for tracking activity on their files. If it hasn't appear already, a new ⓘ  icon will soon be appearing in your Google Drive home. Clicking that icon will allow you to see a stream of the activity on all of your files. You can also select an individual file to see a stream of activity for just that file. The new activity stream doesn't replace revision history which you can open in the "file" menu while viewing a Google Document, Presentation, Drawing, or Spreadsheet.

The following types of activities will appear in your Google Drive activities stream.

  • Moving and removing 
  • Renaming 
  • Uploading
  • Sharing and unsharing
  • Editing and commenting
This feature will be rolling out over the next week. If you don't see it today, be on the look out for it soon. Click here to see an animated GIF of the new Google Drive activities stream in action.

TED Introduces TED-Ed Clubs to Get Kids Talking About Big Ideas

TED recently introduced a new initiative called TED-Ed Clubs. TED-Ed Clubs provide a framework for getting students together on a regular basis to talk about their big ideas. As it is a TED initiative, TED-Ed Clubs have a component for students to deliver TED-style presentations to fellow club members. TED provides club facilitators with a framework and materials for leading students in a collaborative process of developing, sharing, and presenting ideas. In reading through the FAQs about TED-Ed Clubs you might notice some similarities to the Toastmasters concept.

Applications for Education
TED-Ed Clubs can be formed by students, teachers, and school administrators. There is an application that must be completed in order to become an official TED-Ed Club and gain access to the facilitator materials. Of course, you could certainly organize your own "big ideas club" without getting the TED seal of approval. The club environment could provide a comfortable setting for students to practice and develop presentation skills. The club environment could also be a good place for students who tend to prefer to work alone to get practice in collaborating with others on the development of ideas.

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.