WikiTaxi – offline access to Wikipedia

Now here’s something that could prove useful. WikiTaxi provides you with free offline access to Wikipedia. Here’s what it can do according to their front page;

WikiTaxi enables you to read, search, and browse Wikipedia offline. No Internet connection is needed, all pages are stored in a WikiTaxi database. Because Wikipedia is constantly growing, WikiTaxi uses compression to make sure that the database stays reasonably small. The huge English Wikipedia easily fits on a 8 GB memory stick.

There are explanations on their homepage about how you go about creating a Wikitaxi database. You have to do a database dump, which means that you are downloading Wikipedia from the internet and importing it into a Wikitaxi database. According to them, this is easy to do and there are instructions on their page explaining how you go about doing this.  I haven’t done it, so I can’t verify if it is easy or not. It sounds like a big call to me, considering the size of Wikipedia, but they claim that compression makes it possible.

Why would this be useful?? Not all of us in this world have seamless Internet access. Some of our students struggle with digital divide issues and can’t get access to what is becoming a very good reference source that is available online. Imagine if we could provide our students in situations like this with 8g memory  sticks (that are becoming cheaper by the day)  that have Wikitaxi available for them to use at home. Cheaper maybe, than subscribing to an online database like World Book or Brittanica that requires an internet connection once again.   

Jay Hathaway from Download Squad pointed me to this new app. Read his post for his take on it.

School’s out Friday

How quickly does the weekend come around huh? (And how quickly does it go!!!) This is a recommendation from a student of mine for this week’s School’s out Friday. It’s the Discovery Channel’s ad called Boom de  ah dah. It’s a lot of fun. I love the fact that my students want to share their good finds with me. Saves me a lot of time looking and I really appreciate it. On YouTube the Discovery Channel are looking for people to create their own video response to this ad. Here’s one of the efforts that have been made by the public. It’s a couple of inventive kids with a trebuchet – they could cause a lot of damage if let loose with this!  

Have a great weekend.

The power of Twitter

This tweet from Mark Pesce got me thinking this morning. So many people I know don’t write blogs or operate in an online environment. Some have difficulties dealing with email. Most of them have no understanding of what Twitter is or why on earth you’d want to spend time looking at the 140 character responses that are posted on this microblogging tool.

I was with them once. And it wasn’t all that long ago. I’d heard about Twitter but wondered why people would be interested in using this tool. Twitter’s prompt is ‘What are you doing?’ Why would you want to tell people about the minutiae of your life. I danced around it for awhile but finally started using it. Clay Burell helped me to form my network by doing a shout out for me asking people to follow me. The thing with twitter is is that you have to follow people and they need you to follow you back in order for you to see each other’s posts (tweets!). It’s a reciprocal relationship and when it’s like that that’s when it works best.

Seeing Mark’s tweet this morning prompted me to reply with my belief about the power of Twitter.

 

And that’s it really. It’s the capacity of your network to share with you that makes it such an essential tool. Twitter has taken me places I never would have found without the valuable links being provided by the wonderful sharing people involved in my network of reciprocation. Sometimes those same people who post those great links also share with me that they’ve just burnt dinner or have to put the kids to bed. And that’s OK too. I get to know them as people and enjoy the human experience with them.

Let’s face it, it’s powerful. How else would a teacher like me get to connect with a mind like that of futurist Mark Pesce? Personal learning networks are amazing. If you’re dancing around the edges of Twitter it’s time to take your turn in the middle and explore the potential of what is an incredible tool for connecting and sharing.

PostSecret – a favourite of mine

If you haven’t yet discovered PostSecret then you should follow the link and check it out. People create postcards on which are written secrets that they reveal to the world anonomously through this site. It’s kind of like peeking into the secret lives of others, but I think it’s reassuring as well. It helps to know that others find situations difficult. It makes you realise you are not alone and that people everywhere are grappling with finding their place in the world. Sometimes the postcards are confronting and not something you’d put up on the interactive whiteboard, so approach with caution if you are thinking of using it as a teaching resource. Nonetheless, I know quite a few adolescents who regularly visit this site and find it fascinating and helpful. Personally, I think it’s very helpful for students who feel like they don’t fit in or are grappling with difficult times. There’s comfort in discovering you aren’t alone. The postcards have the ability to evoke a myriad of emotions. Here’s a few from this week.

This one made me laugh (probably because I used to think that my cat was trying to communicate with me telepathically when I was a teenager!)

This one made me reflect on the choices we make in life,

And this one made me cry. I have a 9 yr old son.

 

It’s powerful stuff. Visit PostSecret. Be prepared to see some postcards that are a little confronting, but also be prepared to be touched by the experiences of others.

Lauren O’Grady has decided to take an idea from the PostSecret site and have it grow amongst the educational community. She’s asking for 6 word memoirs that you can contribute with a picture or film. Take a look at Lauren’s site and help make it grow. I haven’t posted mine yet but I will!

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.

School’s out Friday

Is it Friday again! Of course it is, and what’s more it’s that special date 08/08/08. Olympic opening ceremony day. I’m sitting here watching and marvelling at the wonder that is China. I’m returning with my school to do an 18 day trip in late October/November. I did the same trip last year and my perception of China and the Chinese people was transformed by the experience. Such wonderful people and such an interesting country full of many contrasts. Before I make this trip I will be visiting a part of China I haven’t experienced before – Shanghai. I’m going to the Learning 2.008 conference in September. What a great learning experience this will be. A chance to meet many of the people I have formed connections with throughout the course of this year and an opportunity to attend sessions run by people of note in the Web 2.0 world. I feel very fortunate.

Couldn’t resist searching YouTube to find what people had uploaded from the opening ceremony already. With the accents I’m gathering it’s from Greek TV – it may not last long on YouTube. I noticed a couple had been taken down from YouTube already for copyright reasons.

Hope you enjoy the weekend and immerse yourself in some of the connective spirit that feeds out from the Olympic games. I love watching and feeling that sense of world unity. Let’s hope it’s a peaceful time.

Mary Manning- a beacon in the Teacher-Librarianship world

I’ve just returned from a dinner meeting of our local SLAV (School Library Association of Victoria) group. Mary Manning was our guest speaker. She was talking about library spaces and design and was making reference to Susan La Marca’s book ‘Rethink’. But she was doing so much more than just that and I don’t know if she knew it.

Mary is an engaging and ‘real’ person.  She’s the kind of person you feel comfortable around, and that’s a compliment. Mary speaks from the heart and makes you feel comfortable about the direction Teacher-Librarianship is headed in. At least, I felt comfortable about it, I can’t speak for all. She provides the wake up call we all need. The understanding that we have to be proactive and move with where education is heading and our libraries have to reflect this in all ways. Our spaces need to be comfortable and inviting; let’s face it, with so many online resources who needs to visit the library for research purposes? I love the Chip and Dan Heath term, ‘sticky’. We have to make our libraries sticky so that people want to be engaged with the learning we can help to provide. We are trying to do this with connective activities that make our kids feel positive about the library environment. Comfy couches, knitting, quizzes, Book Club. We’ve even got our interactive whiteboard hooked up to TV reception so that the Olympic games can be viewed by our students over the coming two weeks. I have a wonderful staff who work hard to enable so many of these activities to happen. (I even have a wonderful Mum, experienced knitter Barbara, who has been coming in over the last couple of weeks to help our girls learn the finer points about knitting!)  

Much of Mary’s talk tonight was laced with the need to respond to technology and how it can help to transform learning. SLAV have been running the 23 things program with Library staff around Victoria and are going a long way towards helping make the shift happen in our schools.  I had an engaging conversation after the event with teachers about Powerful Learning Practice, the initiative developed by Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach and Will Richardson that I am helping with here in Australia. We are setting up a global cohort and Australian Schools will be involved. These teachers could understand the capacity building model this program offers. It’s like the extension of the 23 things program; it offers teachers the opportunity to become immersed into learning communities, enabling connections and transformative learning opportunities for students. They were excited by it and so am I. I feel a bit like an evangelist right now – I’m so excited by the possibilities and want everyone else to catch the fever! I realise it’s going to take time, but with people like Mary speaking to Teacher-Librarian groups in Victoria, we’re headed in the right direction.