Gotta Be An Easier Way

Using technology to make your life easier!

Archive for August, 2009

The new school year is starting and more students are plugged in using iPhones than ever before so I bring you an article from Mashable called “Back to School: Top 10 iPhone Apps for Students”. Enjoy.

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  • Filed under: Mobile
  • Heap’n on the Search Results with Heapr

    Heapr is a great mashing of a couple big dog search engines: Google, Twitter, Wikipedia and Wolfram Alpha, Flickr for images, and for video searching it searches Youtube, Vimeo and Hulu. When you complete a search your main results are from Google featured on the left. On the right side of the page one of the other three contestants is showcased and you can easily switch between these remaining three, which are set up like tabs, with the click of a button while never loosing the ever accurate Google results.

    Heapr of course does loose some of the great functionality of Google search like the promote, similar, and comment buttons that add extra value to the original Google engine but the search results are the same because Heapr is powered by Google primarily.

    Of course on of the most important aspects of any search engine for me is that it can be integrated into the my Firefox search bar and Heapr does that admirably giving me instant access to their search engine without ever having to go to their site.

    I really like all the search engines that Heapr has mashed together and find each of them useful in their own way as they are all very different. Google is a mainstay search engine that always produces results. Wikipedia is a great starting point in researching a topic. Twitter is the best way to get a feel for what the masses are saying about certain topics , Wolfram Alpha is just creepy in how it just answers questions, Flickr is one of the most popular photo sharing sites, Youtube is a huge video sharing site that many people use as a search engine in and of itself, Vimeo is a great video website as is Hulu. The problem with each of those search engines is I forget about them or just don’t want to perform multiple searches on one topic, so I fall back on old Google and it always delivers. That is a problem that is solved with Heapr allowing me to search it all quickly and easily in one page, giving me a better cross section of answers.

    Heapr is officially at the top of my search engine toolbar and is likely to stay for a while.

    How can this be used for education?

    It can save time and paint a more accurate and holistic picture of most internet searches than any one search engine can give because of the search engines it uses. Google gives the most popular results, Twitter is the pulse of the people and can give insight into what the popular belief about certain subjects. Wolfram Alpha is a fact engine that will do it’s best to answer you question as best it can (see my article on W.A.) and Wikipedia as we all know is a great resource used as a starting point for research.

    Give Heapr to your students as an alternative to the search engines they are using, perhaps the additional information will spark some extra interest in a particular research paper. Check out the other articles on Search.

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  • Filed under: Uncategorized
  • Ideas Abound with Mindmapping

    I found a great article on Robin Good’s blog that goes over several mindmapping tools in a guide format. Although not an extensive list and it doesn’t focus on user friendliness, it does highlight the major players and gives great unbiased overviews of the tools selected. I highly recommend reading the whole article as it is truly a great resource that I have already bookmarked and intend to go back to often.

    In the near future I will give a more in-depth review of the usability and functions of some of the tools that Robin Good outlines in his article.

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  • Filed under: Mind Mapping
  • Wordnik the Un-Dictionary

    On an initial viewing Wordnik appears to be a dictionary but upon further investigation it is not. In their own words

    “Wordnik is not a traditional dictionary (in fact, we’ve seriously considered not calling Wordnik a dictionary at all)”.

    The fact of the matter is that Wordnik is a dictionary on steroids that uses words and definitions that are in “traditional” dictionaries and ones that have not made it there yet. It also works much like Wikipedia allowing users to record pronunciation, add images, give their own definitions.
    So what good is it then? There are tons of dictionaries on the internet how does this help me? Well what Wordnik does have going for it is a great way of looking at words beyond their definition, synonyms and antonyms. It looks at word relationships and knows when words end up in the same sentence more often than not like for instance:

    “cheeseburger, milkshake, and doughnut are not synonyms, but they show up in the same kinds of sentences.”

    Now before you get all huffy and start saying “If it is not official dictionary words and definitions then I don’t want my students even harboring the idea of using it”. Oh on the contrary, here is a list of some of the features that Wordnik employs.

    • Dictionary definitions from multiple official sources like American Heritage and Webster.
    • Statistics and meaningful information on the frequency and use patters of a word over the past 200+ years
    • Real world examples in articles, books, quotes and other great resources to show how professional authors use the word
    • Real world examples for social media like Twitter to show how the everyday person uses the word
    • The etymology of the word
    • Related words such as synonyms
    • Words used in the same context, like the word fries is paired with burger
    • Audio Pronunciation
    • Chart of other forms of a word and their usage.

    As you can see Wordnik is a very useful un-dictionary that can easily be integrated into yours and your students every day search for knowledge because we don’t know all the words out there.

    How can I use this in education?

    Use it like any other dictionary but because of its nature it adds so much more information that can be grasped if you only want to have it. For instance I really enjoy knowing the etymology of words but rarely seek out any of it, now whenever I want a word definition I use Wordnik and get a plethora of value added information that fills that void. So you can use it for yourself and/or pass it along to your students and let them enjoy it, hey you never know maybe they will start using actual words instead of instant messaging lingo 🙂

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  • Filed under: dictionary