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Saturday, December 13, 2008

Middlespot is a websearch interface that is specifically designed to help you manage your online research. The site doesn't require a login nor are there any plugins that need to be downloaded. This is a benefit on the one hand especially if you are planning on using it with k-12 students but there are some potential drawbacks to this that I will get back to in a moment. Let me explain the basic features of Middlespot first.

Users can conduct keyword searches with Middlespot and view their results both as text, similar to what you would see in a Google search, and as a series of thumbnails. You can then save different sites to your workpad and add annotations to each site you save. The workpads can be e-mailed to friends to share your research. These workpads are also saved for you and available the next time you visit the Middlespot site. This is where using a tool like this on a public computer, such as the computers in your school lab, becomes problematic and I would rather have the option of signing students up for their own accounts so that they could create and access their workpads individually. To learn more about the tool you can go through the slideshow included below, which comes from the help section on their website.

Middlespot Tutorial
View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: engine search)

Playing for Change

"Playing for Change is a multimedia movement created to inspire, connect, and bring peace to the world through music." They say it so nicely on their website I figured I would just quote them instead of trying to come up with my own description. This movement is a perfect example of the power of multimedia and Web 2.0 technology. Check out the Stand by Me video I've included below and you will see what I mean. There are some other videos on the site but this one is by far my favorite. It is a masterful job of editing and audio mixing and the concept is just sheer brilliance. They recorded street musicians across the globe and mixed them together into one song as if they were all laying down tracks together in a single recording studio.

Now you may be wondering how this site fits into your k-12 classroom. I think it has a variety of potential applications. First of all, it is a great way to introduce students to a variety of cultures and help them develop an appreciation of different musical styles. I think it is also a powerful way to expose them to a social movement that could directly benefit them by promoting music education around the world and even in their own community. Finally, it demonstrates how the web can give a voice to anyone longing to be heard. If nothing else, you could show it to students as part of a lesson on the importance of being and having friends.

Wikipedia for Schools

To say I have been a bit delinquent in my posting to this blog would be an understatement but rather than making excuses for my absence, I'll just get to the posting. I recently read about the Wikipedia Selection for Schools on Kelly Tenkely's exceptional blog, iLearn Technology. This selection of resources from Wikipedia has been pre-screened for accuracy and appropriateness with k-12 students in mind. They boast on the site that the amount of information is equivalent to "a 20 volume encyclopedia". When I first read that I was a little confused and I had to look up the word encyclopedia. Turns out, an encyclopedia is a book and people used to use them to look up information and learn things. Can you imagine that! Alright, enough of my weak attempt at humor.

Along with over 5500 articles the collection of resources has some 34,000 images for students to view. You can browse the content either by a picture-based index (handy for younger students) or a word index. But I haven't even gotten to the best part yet. You can download the entire collection and put it on a DVD so that students can use the site offline if needed. How cool is that? What I really love about this is that students can still get the practice of parsing information from a larger collection of resources, analyzing the various articles and drawing conclusions based on the information they collect but do so in a safe environment tailor made for them. This seems like a great option for those research projects you have planned for your students.