Wednesday, November 26, 2008


Scrapblog is another in a series of very neat Web 2.0 tools that I could see a teacher using with a class. Students would need their own account, but it allows them to create some stunning visual representations of what they are working on. It's like a slideshow, with extras. Imagine multiple digital scrapbook pages that you can email or embed. You can try it out by clicking on the "Get Started" button, but to save, print or export, you need to be logged in. (You can always take a screen shot of your creation using "shift-apple-4" on a Mac, and then use the pic in other applications.) Let me know if you try it with a class.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Another way to look at the news

The internet gives us lots of different ways to see the news: you can look at the front pages of papers from around the world, you can subscribe to news feeds and get an updated list of stories delivered daily, you can visit digital versions of your favourite daily, you can check out video and audio clips of the big stories on CBC or CNN.

But all of these avenues are essentially text (and pictures) presented in ways we recognize. What if there was another way to look at the news? Using a format similar to tag clouds, Marumushi has created a clever way to represent the important stories of the hour by mapping out Google News items on a grid. The size of the story relates to how much it is being talked about. In their words: "In Newsmap, the size of each cell is determined by the amount of related articles that exist inside each news cluster that the Google News Aggregator presents. In that way users can quickly identify which news stories have been given the most coverage, viewing the map by region, topic or time." Yes, you can choose your country and even filter to exclude certain types of stories. (ie. sports or entertainment.)

Could this catch on? Take a look at their "NewsMap" and see if you agree.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Polyvore: design your life.

So my latest find is actually one of my daughter's current favourite sites: Polyvore (She's crazy about it and loves to create.) You can design "window displays" and create interior design or fashion design layouts.

The interface pulls objects from the internet (taken mostly from on-line catalogs so each object stands alone as a cutout image.) and you can then resize them and put them together collage-like. Take a look at this"artsy" example.

Layouts can be printed, saved, embedded etc.
(The vendors make their money by having every element you choose appear on the "shopping list" showing where the item can be purchased.)

Students can have fun designing displays on assigned themes, dreaming up a layout for another student after a fashion "interview" and using their creations to add to their virtual portfolio, especially if they hope to apply to a design program.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Sumopaint, a WEB 2.0 paintbrush.

Sumopaint is a great example of what is now possible using a web-based tool. This site/program offers the user a "virtual" paintbox, complete with layers. And if you create an account, you can save your work and open it up later, with the layers intact. Finished products can be downloaded as jpegs for use in other projects. The image gallery has a mind blowing array of samples created by members of the sumopaint community. This is a perfect way for an art teacher to introduce the digital medium, without having to install costly, proprietary software.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Literacy + Technology = ?

While technology solutions are not the answer to every teaching problem, sometimes there can be a great support in meeting a student need. Here's the scenario: what about a high school or middle school student who may have trouble reading the typical novel offering? The vocab is too difficult, the sentences too demanding. The student too easily loses the thread of the narrative. What to do? My suggestion is to check out Orca Books, especially the "Orca Soundings" collection. These are dynamic, exciting, relevant novelettes that speak to teens about issues that they find compelling, in a language that is very accessible. The authors are all well-respected YA writers (Carrie Mac, Norah McClintock, etc). So where's the technology?

Tumble Books has added a new horse to the stable: TumbleReadables. And as part of this offering, they have included titles from the Orca Soundings collection. (Check out this link to try some of the titles that are available.) Not only can you (or your teen) read the books on-line, even using a bigger font if needed, but selected titles can also be listened to. This is a great support for a student who has difficulty with the printed text. If you decide this is for you, you can get a subscription for your school or institution.