Tag Archives: search engines

Just think about it…

Just think about it……….

1o years ago, if I wanted to find out about Biston Betularia and Industrial Melanism I would have had to venture to my local library, search the  catalogue and hope that a book they had contained some information about what it is. My best bet may have been the hard copy of World Book or Encyclopedia Brittanica.  

Last night, after seeing a tweet from factlets about the Peppered Moth in England, I had cause to consider the speed at which you can acquire information these days. Jo Hart, from Perth, replied to my tweet with this;

Biston betularia and industrial melanism – thnq Jenny you just took me back to my younger self at uni   

Now I’d never heard of Biston Betularia and Industrial Melanism, but a quick Google search led me to a page of results  (with 3,100 results) for me to peruse.  Quite quickly I’d ascertained it’s origins and how the Peppered Moth was the best-studied example of this. If I had have visited Mahalo, I would have discovered a page listing images, video and results from Twitter. Right now if you visit this page you’ll see Jo’s reply to me listed in the Twitter results. Now that is cool!

I recounted this story to a work colleague today and we both marvelled at the rapidity of information retrieval today. Even though this is commonplace now, it still holds me in awe of the power of internet based search.  It makes me look at our non-fiction collection and question why we invest considerable dollars purchasing slim tomes for $40.00 a pop that may languish there untouched for years. It’s particularly relevant to question this when you work in a 1:1 environment (that means all of your students have laptops). I’ve said it before, the students at my school look to the internet first for information before they would think of venturing to the shelves. When I think of my practice now, I’m the same. It has certainly evolved from when I first started teaching  at Toorak College nearly 4 yrs ago.

Now, to think about what search might be like 10 years from now?……..

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Mahalo Answers – new feature with a twist.

Jason Calacanis has been active on Twitter promoting Mahalo Answers, the newest string to the Mahalo bow.  It’s a question and answer service with an added twist. You can earn some virtual dollars that can be converted into real dollars with Mahalo taking a 25% cut. Techcrunch have written about this:

Mahalo Answers throws in a twist. If someone really wants to encourage the best answers, they can offer a tip in “Mahalo Dollars,” which can be funded through PayPal and are convertible into real dollars once a member has earned at least 40 of them. For those of you who remember Google Answers, it paired questioners with vetted researchers who found answers for a fee. This is slightly different in that questions are not assigned to a specific researcher. As many people can answer it as they want and all compete for the tip. Furthermore, the tip can be rescinded by the questioner if he or she is not satisfied with any of the answers.   

Their thinking is if questioners rescind on too many tips no-one will answer their questions in future. They also offer points to people who ask and answer questions. If you provide the best answers,  add links or find friends who can better the service you get more points and can earn yourself a coloured belt, much like the system used in Karate. The higher you go the more of an ‘expert’ you are considered. The thinking is that people who accrue points and attain ‘expert’ status will be able to charge higher fees for their services. Techcrunch quotes Calacanis as saying;

If you can make knowledge into a game and help people make living, it is very powerful.

I’m sure appealing to people’s egos won’t hurt all that much either.

The clever thing about all this for Mahalo will be that they will be watching this closely and using the information accrued here to bolster the information they provide on their search pages. (Mahalo is a human powered search engine- people construct the pages you get when you search for a topic.) This can only help them to grow stronger in the search engine market. I know that I am always happy when a topic I’m searching has a page on Mahalo. I can guarantee the results are going to be worth my while.

It’s just gone live and some of the questions are a bit feeble, but others are interesting. Take a look. Maybe you can provide some answers and start earning yourself some Mahalo dollars. If I was a stay at home Mum instead of a full time employee, I know what I’d be doing. I’d give daytime TV the flick (not that that would be hard!) and I’d be extending my mind and income by contributing to this idea.  

 

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New views from Viewzi

Giovanni, from Viewzi, sent me a tweet (from Twitter), about a new view available from his Search engine. I’m still getting a kick out of the fact that Search engine developers are coming to me to tell me about new features. Obviously they want to get their product out there and have people write about them. I’m dutifully doing that right now, but only because I think what they’re offering may have educational benefits. If I thought it wasn’t useful I wouldn’t bother. Trust me.

Giovanni knows that Twitter is a great tool for optimising the coverage his search engine gets. Take a look at these tweets he posted on twitter this afternoon (evening his time).

I’m not criticising, I think he’s smart to be recognising the potential of the microblogging tool that twitter is. If I had something to sell I’d be doing it too!

Anyway, back to the new views Viewzi are offering. First up is news view. It’s been around for a few weeks now. News sources they use are USA today, The New York Times, CNN, Reuters and Yahoo. A fairly heavy US concentration so be aware of this. I did a search for Stephanie Rice, an Australian swimmer who picked up a gold medal this morning at the Beijing Olympics. Of the nine results that feature on the first of the results pages, three were specific to Stephanie and the other six had Michael Phelps as their focus. Perhaps not the best news search engine choice if you’re looking for Australian content. I did another search for Georgia Russia given the troubles emanting from this part of the world and got returns that would be useful for students investigating this situation. I like the way the results are delivered; you get the headline and the opening paragraph and can click on read more to redirect you to the source article. At the bottom of the page you get an indication of the amount of pages Viewzi has loaded delivering returns for your search query.

The newest ‘view’ they have offered is timeline view. This, I think, could be a handy view for educational purposes. Here’s the result for Georgia Russia that I did this afternoon;

You can see the concentration of results that are a response to recent happenings. Ealier results in the timeline would be interesting for students to look at to track the development of the crisis. Great for classes studying international events. I’ll be remembering this view so that I can point students to it when they are investigating issues in the news.

Viewzi is an interesting search engine. There is so much choice, perhaps a little too much. It’s a search engine you need to spend time investigating so that you can use it to its best potential.

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Very recent – the ‘buzz’ search engine

Tom Churm commented on this blog recently about what I assume is his search engine, Very Recent. It’s an interesting idea. It’s a search engine that searches for information on sites like Twitter, Google Blog Search, Technorati, Yahoo News, Digg, FriendFeed and Flickr. So what you’re getting when you search is the latest ‘buzz’ from people making comment and producing content in this networked world.  

How useful it will be for education is something to ponder. There’s always the risk that the returns will be potentially inappropriate – we are, after all, dealing with social networking sites where people offer relaxed commentary. However, I could see the benefit of this search engine for finding information about world events as they happen. It’s often the social networking sites that are buzzing with info straight away. If you operate in a network like Twitter you will know that the links people provide are often good.  I searched for Beijing Olympics and found some interesting information and some great photos from Flickr. You could set a task for students to find what the latest buzz is surrounding this world event. By going to a Technorati link I discovered that protestors in Beijing must give 5 days notice and ‘not harm China’s vaguely defined “national interests” ‘.  Let’s see how that goes!!

You don’t get a lot of detail about what is listed there- just the title of the blog post, article or YouTube video etc. Hard to know if there is any relevance for what you need. Phil Bradley recently wrote about it and you might like to read his take on it. It’s an interesting idea though, and Very Recent is a search engine I’ll be remembering the next time something big happens and I want to see what the world is saying about it.

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Searchme a winner with students.

(I added the arrows in the above screenshot!)

Today I was teaching our Yr 7 students about researching effectively. We were exploring keywords for search and I showed them Searchme. I wanted them to see how they could use Searchme’s stacks to collect webpages and keep a record of the websites they find useful for their investigative research.

These students had seen Searchme and Viewzi when I introduced them to these new search engines a couple of weeks ago.  As I was moving around the room one of them told me she uses Searchme as her default search engine now. The real magic happened when I demonstrated how you save the pages to a stack that you have created. They were won over in that instant. They spent the rest of the lesson dragging relevant pages to stacks they had created. They all were drawn in by the fact that you have the page loaded and can see your search results as a page view. You can start to make assessment as to whether or not the resource might be relevant. They got the idea really quickly that stacks were a means of collating your research so that you could go back and peruse in depth when you were ready to tackle questions that needed addressing. A couple of them made mention that this would help in making sure that the bibliographic data you needed was accessible -they did note that they should be collecting this along the way and should not leave the construction of a bibliography until the last minute! All of them thought it was very cool that you could save videos and images to your stacks as well as standard webpages.

I was using Google last night to collate links for a wiki page I was putting together for our study of ‘Little Women’. I wanted my students to get some grasp of the period and was searching for Amercian Civil War links. Google wasn’t returning what I was looking for so I turned to Mahalo. Surprisingly the page for American Civil War has not been fully fleshed out -I was surprised anyway. I went to Searchme thinking the returns would be so so but was pleasantly surprised. I found myself loving the full page view and being able to flick through results so easily. Within minutes I’d found what I was looking for at appropriate levels of understanding for my students and my wiki links were completed.   

Have to say I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the results from Searchme. I keep expecting mediocre results but am finding relevant pages appearing. The speed at which I can assess a resource is a real winner for me and I’m guessing it’s going to be for my students as well. I’ll be very interested to watch their adoption of these new alternatives to traditional search.

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Searchme – Stacks are fun (and useful too!)

Got a comment on my blog from the crew at Searchme about new features they have added that make this new visual search engine even more appealing.  They’ve added video and image search as options. The video search is interesting. The pages (only from YouTube at the moment) load automatically for you to view - as you click through the results that flip across your screen you can watch them without having to visit the YouTube site. Probably best explained by watching the video Searchme produced to explain the process;

The other very cool feature that I think has many positive benefits for education is the introduction of what they are calling stacks. Stacks gives you the ability to save webpages from the search you are conducting. To do this you click on ‘new stack’ in the top right hand corner of the screen and give it a name. You then click on the page you want, pick it up and drag it into the stack. Your stack can be a combination of webpages, video and images. You can share your stack by emailing the link or by grabbing the code and embedding it in your blog, facebook, myspace, delicious, twitter  and various other accounts. Again, watch the demo video they have produced to explain how you do this;

I can see the possibities for student research with stacks. I think this is going to be a very appealing option for the students I work with – they like the visual format and the click and drag appeal of storing pages is going to be a winner. The fact that they would be able to share their stacks with others would be incredibly useful for group tasks. This will be an easy sell provided the search results are up to scratch. Being a new search engine in beta there may be problems with getting a thorough search result so patience will be required and we may have to qualify this with our students. Nonetheless I think it’s worth pursuing – I’ve no doubt our students are going to love it.  

**update: note this comment from Babu Satasiya from Searchme;

If you do not find pages, you have option of adding your urls in stack and it will be imaged on priority basis and you have all your custmize stacks ready to share with your friends on facbook, myspace and as per your wish.

 

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Viewzi – another new cool visual search engine.

On the back of yesterday’s post about Searchme comes the release today of Viewzi, a new visual search engine. I pity the poor software developers out there trying to hack their brains for new names that are going to stick! Like Searchme, the visual interface is intriguing.  Viewzi opens up to a clean interface with a search box. When you enter a term your results page looks like this;

My search term was whaling and 15 possible windows presented themselves for opening. There are a variety of mediums for you to select from; MP3 files, video files, Reuter’s News view,  Web screenshot view, Simple Text view with rankings from Alexa, Google and Yahoo, 4 sources view which searches Ask, Google, MSN and Yahoo and many others including photo sites, Amazon and even cookbooks!

Here’s what the page looks like when you select video files;

 

You can remove tags from the results page and this will eliminate videos that are tagged with that term. A good visual way of teaching students how you can narrow a search according to key words you use. There’s no doubt this is a busy search engine with a plethora of options that may be a bit overwhelming for the novice searcher. However I do think it’s another great way to demonstrate to our students that there is more out there than their usual default search engine of choice.

As John Connell and Clenda pointed out in comments on my Searchme post, the results you get may be a bit hit and miss at this stage. These search engines are in beta and need time to develop into something great. I’m still going to give them a go -I think they’ve got the engagement factor that can get our students excited about search and may go a long way toward leading them to new learning opportunities that they may have missed if they’d just scanned through the first page of results from their text based search engine. Give Viewzi a try.    

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