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Is it a Wonder (wheel)? What about ‘Clusty’?

One of the newer tools Google has developed, Wonder Wheel, has taken on the idea of clustering results of searches into related groups. This is a great tool which enables the breakdown of a broad search into more and more specific keywords, and can assist in the refinement of searches. (But not the only one – see below.)

To use Wonder Wheel, you begin with your search term at Google. Once this is entered, you have to select ‘show options’ on the left, and move down to select the option ‘Wonder wheel’. This will then display a visual of related topics, which can help to narrow your search. You can continue to dig down into these topics, as they become more specific to your needs, or click back out to where you began. This is demonstrated in the short video clip below:


New idea? well, not really…

The idea of grouping related search terms is not new, however, and was used in the past by the search engine, Mooter. (Did Google buy this out?) It is also still used by the search engine, Clusty, which has a few other options which may also be of interest to those wishing to refine their searches.

A comparison of ‘Wonder wheel’ and ‘Clusty’:

(Note: these are part-page images, both display lists of sites on the search page as well)

1.’Cloning’ search on Wonder wheel…

2. ‘Cloning’ search on Clusty provides a clustering or grouping of related terms, which can also help you to dig down further. The + sign indicates a folder which can be opened, the number tells how many hits within the group.

3. A further option in Clusty allows is to select results from a particular type of site (click on ‘sites’ tab, and select ‘edu’):

So, there are other options available to help refine a search for more specific information, or to help brainstorm an idea to more specific keywords and concepts. The choice is yours.

Contrasting comments on Wonderwheel:

1. “You can follow each connection in the Wonder Wheel, which then sprouts its own set of spokes. I quickly lost my place. I’ve seen other tools like this before and can say, unequivocally, I never get anything out of them. Please, Google, don’t waste our time with this stuff.” From: 12 technologies I hate, http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2349277,00.asp (N.B. This writer does not like graphic search tools.)

2. An alternate point of view: “I honestly believe this will take some of the “getting lost in the web” problems all students face and also help teachers to guide students through a more successful search. With any luck, even students as young as third grade will be able to start making successful Google searches with the Wonder Wheel.” From: Google Features That Make Teachers’ Lives Easier Part 2 – Wonder Wheel and Timeline, http://tinyurl.com/yjw84yc

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More about Wallwisher

Now that some have tried out Wallwisher with classes, a few reflections:

  1. When saving your wall, give it a logical address (rather than accepting the default, which is just random numbers and letters – hard to remember or recognise.)
  2. Do you have somewhere to provide students with  easy access to the link? (e.g. an ecampus site?)
  3. Perhaps, begin with the wall ‘open’ while you work with the class. This will provide instantaneous feedback during classtime, (they will see their posts straight away), then change the settings to moderate after class (JIC).
  4. Check that students can access Web 2.0 sites like Wallwisher (trial it with a student logging in – teachers’ access may be different!). If ‘no’, seek out IT staff to allow access, as filters may automatically block some sites.
  5. Remember, it is the tool, not the purpose of the lesson – and you may need a backup plan if the site is blocked for some reason – so, what is the aim of the activity? and how might you do it without technology?
  6. Share your reflections – the good and the bad – with others. Comment here!!
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ToonDoo – Create your own graphic ‘novel’ and more

Here’s some information and links to enable you to find out about the web 2.0 tool ToonDoo, which Steve mentioned recently. As he stated, it’s a creative tool used to make comic strips – which could have multiple uses in the classroom. And like many web 2.0 tools it’s easy to use.


1. Sign up at: www.toondoo.com

2. Register with a username, password and  email address, then login to get started.

Creating ToonDoos involves selecting templates for the frame you wish to use, characters, speech bubbles, backgrounds, props and shapes – all of which can be found when you are logged in, by clicking on the ToonDoo pencil. After this, the fun begins as you click and drag your selection into place. There are many tools which allow you to modify the different components – ask the students to help you work these as they seem to intuitively know how to play with such things!

The Slideshare (How to Create a ToonDoo) below runs through the ToonDoo process:

Once you have created a ToonDoo, you can choose how you wish to publish – you have the choice to make it public or private, and it is possible to use a ‘safe’ filter when searching the gallery with students. It is also possible with the clipping tool in Vista or Windows 7 to clip and save the image created, or simply publish the ToonDoo to a blog.

Educational comment on ToonDoo

Bright Ideas Blog. http://slav.globalteacher.org.au/2008/12/18/toondoo/ This blog post by the School Library Association of Victoria outlines the ToonDoo tool, and suggests uses such as book reviews, writing Haiku poetryand summarising historical events. This site provided the link to the Slideshare shown above.

Marcinek, Andrew. ToonDoo is too cool for school. http://www.classroom20.com/forum/topics/toon-doo-is-cool-for-school Andrew provides suggestions for use, including English – translating a passage from Hamlet, Maths, special ed and History examples. “This post is going to focus on a website that all teachers can utilize in his or her classroom immediately and it is very easy to use. The site is called “Toon Doo”. Toon Doo is a free open application that allows anyone to create a comic strip.”

# Please add any suggested uses that you have found for this tool as a comment below, and share your classroom experience.

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Wallwisher – online post-it notes

Do away with butcherpaper. Allow kids to make comment individually. Manage ideas from many. Wallwisher can help you do this.

Try it to capture ideas from a PD session. Use it to track you own thoughts (like a brainstorm/mindmap). Or a simple activity to share opinions of a class group, allowing everyone a chance to ‘speak’ .

The process is simple – just type in your name and email address, then start your wall.

You have the option to:

  • keep it private (for personal use)
  • share with others via email invite, or address link
  • moderate sticky notes (comments) – wise for class use

It’s a simple but fun tool, which teachers across the globe are already using: see ‘Sixteen interesting ways to use Wallwisher in the classroom’ , a collation of ideas, intitiated by Tom Barrett at Google Docs.

If you want to try Wallwisher, then visit: http://wallwisher.com/wall/books4you and add your sticky note to my wall, ‘Read any good books lately?’ or have a play on another: http://wallwisher.com/wall/titlestobuy.

Some teachers have already used this in the past (though it is still in Beta mode), or looked at it recently and said:

I used it in a class activity with Year 9 last year…. Once we ironed that out it worked really well.  The only drawback is in-class computer access.  Thanks for reminding me – I will use it with Year 8 History SOON!!! (Anne)

Looks very interesting. I guess it’s another form of wiki. (Cameron)

Here’s another  wall to preview,  ‘What’s so great about Smartboards’ – a collection of comments about use in the classroom.

## When you have had a chance to play, and maybe thought of some ideas, please share them here in your comments. Or make a wall for others to comment (email the link to friends and colleagues.) Or share your success/failure trialling some of the 16 Things shared by Tom Barrett and others.


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bibme – a bibliography maker

Since bibliographies remain a challenging task for many students, it is great to have a Web 2.0 tool to help them (and us) manage a little better. One I have trialled recently is bibme.


bibme is a free automatic bibliography generator that supports several formatting styles. It is fast and easy and accesses a number of different database sources (like Amazon) for its information. The automatic option is fast and easy and even operates using an ISBN (that is, the unique code identfiying individual resources). even without a hit from Amazon, you can complete a manual entry and BibMe formats in the style you have selected.

Simply go to bibme.org and enter in either the title, ISBN, or author of the publication, select the media you are looking for (i.e. book, journal, film etc.) and search. You are able to check, and edit the entry where there are slight variations in the result, and this can be added to your bibliography.

There are different formats to be chosen (unfortunately, no Harvard, but APA is close). The list grows in an ordered fashion and can be copied to another document. It is easy, however, to register and then be able to save the result for download to  Word or other document type. It is also easy to go back to edit (or add) to the list saved to your account.

While this is different to our preferred Harvard style guide, it offers consistency and a quick recording of all references as you or the student proceeds in research. Manual entry is also possible for resources which are new or unusual, and which don’t come up on the automatic search.

Why not give it a trial and comment on how it worked for you?


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Beginning again…

Now that ’15 Things’ has come to an end (for some), there is time to review (see the ‘List of Tools’ page), apply what you have learnt and then check back regularly to see what else is new.

As Web 2.0 tools are increasing in number and variety, use this blog to learn about some which have been used in educational settings, recommended by educators. Choose what you want to use and trial as many as you like. Hopefully, there will be some tools and links to also help you keep track!


Thinking inside the box – SimplyBox

sboxA relatively new Web 2.0 tool is known as SimplyBox.

It provides the facilities to collect snippets from web pages (like Window Vista snip tool), provide links back to these (like Delicious) and enable sharing of details, pictures and links with friends and colleagues (like One-Note, Flickr, Facebook, etc.). So it has many tools in one application.


A quick trial run revealed that it is relatively quick and easy to download, and easy to get started:

1. Simple sign-up by choosing a Username, password and adding you email address. A link is sent to your email for verification.

2. You then need to download the SimplyBox toolbar to your browser using the link provided. You can also use SimplyBox without this toolbar.


3. After the installation of the toolbar (see image above), you need to login as a last step (in the toolbar space) and get to work or play! If the toolbar is not showing have a look in View/ Toolbars and select SimplyBox.

4. Once your toolbar is up, you can visit a website then save all, or part of it, to SimplyBox for later referral, or sharing with others.

The introductory video provides lots of suggestions for its use – planning, sharing important sites, and the ability to organise your online serendipitous discoveries in personalised containers and boxes:

  • Planning a holiday? collect sippets of information about your plans to share with friends
  • Writing an essay? collect your quotes and reference links in one of the containers
  • Like to share videos? direct your frineds to your video tab
  • Found some valuable sites for your students? place them all in one box for students to access

I am in early discovery mode so would like to know what others think after they have played with SimplyBox themselves.