Blog Archives

Wolfram|Alpha Releases Educators’ Version

Wow, I’m talking about Wolfram|Alpha a lot lately, aren’t I? Sorry, I gots a bit more to say. The site announced last week that there’s a new site developed for educators. The new site’s at http://www.wolframalpha.com/educators/.

What’s here? There are some videos showing how W|A is used in the classroom (from fourth graders to college students) as well as examples of how to search Wolfram|Alpha for any number of concepts and a bunch of lesson plans covering science, social studies, and math (of course.) The lessons plans are PDFs — I downloaded the one for creative writing and learned that W|A works with queries like random name and random city and random food. After some more messing around I found out random disease works and freaked myself out a bit, so here I am back at the review. But these lessons plans may teach you about some new W|A commands that you hadn’t known about.

Wolfram|Alpha also has an education portal (lots of different resources, all broken out by grade), a math resource with thousands of entries, and an education forum that looks semi-busy.

Obviously when you think W|A and education you’re going to think about math, but I was surprised at the amount of science and especially social studies resources available. Teachers, take a look!

Peer 2 Peer University Starts Round Two

Thanks to Creative Commons for the heads-up about Peer 2 Peer University, which has announced its second round of free and open online courses. Read this and sign up quick, because the registration deadline is February 28…

What the heck is P2PU? The tagline for the site is “Learning for everyone, by everyone, about almost anything,” which should give you a good overview. The site, which is run by volunteers, is trying to create a source for high-quality, low cost education.

Currently the site is in its second phase of courses, which will run from March 12 to April 23. You can get the course list at http://www.p2pu.org/course/list. Courses offered include “Solve Anything! Building Ideas through Design,” “Managing Election Campaigns,” “Intro to Concepts in Behavioral Economics and Decision Making,” and “Climate Resilient Cities”. You’ll have to register on the site before you can sign up for the courses.

I don’t know what’s on tap after this next round of courses — pilot phase three? — but you can follow Peer 2 Peer U’s blog at http://blogs.p2pu.org/.

Find Open Educational Resources and More

Hey! This looks pretty handy. The Open Educational Resources Center for California has a pretty unusual URL — http://grou.ps/oercenter/ — but a nice collection of resources that goes into open source education and a little beyond.

The front of this site has a great left nav that leads you to seven different resources for finding open textbooks, four each for open educational resources and open courseware, five resources for open media, and two resources for open quizzes. The front page also has some information on the open education movement and links to additional resources. Looking for something more specific? You can get category links to over 400 open textbooks here.

While you’re at the site, check out the Five Steps to Open Textbook Adoption and the goals of the OER Center for California. It’s a little sad; there’s a forum here but nobody’s participating in it, and the site itself feels a bit empty. Maybe take the ebook resources and turn them into a custom search engine?

Courseopedia Wants to Connect You to Classes of All Sorts

Courseopedia launched at the beginning of this month but I’m just now looking at it because of Labor Day! Courseopedia describes itself this way: “Courseopedia is designed to eliminate tedious searches through multiple online college catalogs, alert adult learners to local colleges and private educational resources they might otherwise not know about, and provide a central location for browsing and discovering classes of interest.” Right now it’s limited to just California schools (but already it’s got over 50,000 courses from over 50 city and community colleges) but it plans to expand to nationwide. The URL is http://www.courseopedia.com.

The front page offers you a simple keyword/zip code search, or you can go through topic lists in several categories, including vocational, health, computer, science, art, etc. Additional tabs at the top of the search allow you to search for programs and schools, while two other tabs let you look at a career guide and either leave or search for comments about schools/programs/courses.

(If that simple keyword/zip search is not enough, there is an advanced search option that lets you search using commonsense elements like whether the course is online or not, and more esoteric factors like the instructor’s first name!)

I did a search for Hair and 90210 and got a results lists that looks like this:

Courseopedia Search Results

You’ll see that the information returned includes course numbers, dates, times, and where the course is being offered. I was kind of surprised to see all those “Chairside Techniques” courses — those are courses for dental hygienists — so I wondered if Courseopedia finds keywords inside other words. I did a search for airsi and I got the same “Chairside” courses. So if you use shorter words or keyword strings that show up inside other words, don’t be surprised if you get unusual search results.

There’s more detail besides what’s offered on this one screen shot. Click on the title of the course and you’ll get a course description, contact information for the institution offering the course, and prerequisite information. With some courses I saw things like uniforms being required, but I never saw information about required textbooks. Considering how much books cost and how much they can add to the expense of an education, this seems like an unfortunate omission.

There is already a great deal of information here and Courseopedia is only covering California! I’m looking forward to more extensive offerings. Be careful about your search terms, though.

CampusCompare Launches Social Media Stream for College Information

College search engine CampusCompare has launched a social media stream to provide additional information about colleges beyond what data it’s already making available. The URL for CampusCompare is http://www.campuscompare.com/, but to get to “College Current” (what it’s calling the social media stream) you’ll have to dig around a little…

I had never been to this college search engine; it’s nice. From the home page you can choose a variety of factors to start your search including state, major, career, etc. You can even look at a full A-Z listing of all colleges.

I chose to look at colleges in Arizona. I got 116 results but sliders on the search results would let me narrow my results down still further, by things like number of students, whether it’s public or private, and so on.

When you initially click on a college to look at it, you’ll get a lot of reference-type information. There’s notes on academics, financial aid, room and board, campus services, and a lot more. (Of course, not all campuses have information for each of those topics.) For a completely different take on the campus, click on the College Current tab and you’ll get a screenshot like the one below.

College Current

College Current aggregates videos, photos, Twitter, and RSS feeds to give the user another take on the campus. Frankly I didn’t know what I’d think about this when I first read about it. I thought the tweets would be fairly meaningless and the multimedia wouldn’t be extensive. But I was wrong. The tweets were a lot better than I thought; the ones I looked at were a good mix of student commentary, event and resource announcements, and even some job postings. (Note that there doesn’t seem to be any filtering to the tweets so you will see some bad language, etc.) The multimedia was more pervasive; I saw several campuses that didn’t have anything in the line of Twitter or RSS feeds, but they had plenty of video multimedia and most of them had photos.

When you’re looking around for a campus you have to have the regular reference type material to give you information on which you can base your decisions. But I liked the College Current; it provides a whole other, more dynamic, perspective on the school. You know what would be really neat though? Aggregating the tweets for each college and making TAG CLOUDS, then searching the clouds. Find your college by concept!

Creative Commons Launches Education Search Engine

Creative Commons has announced the launch of DiscoverEd, a search engine of “open” educational resources. Open as in as having a CC or other license that makes them more available for use. DiscoverEd is available in beta at http://discovered.creativecommons.org.

The materials in the search engine were not gathered from an open Web crawl; rather they were assembled from third-party repositories like the Open Courseware Consortium and the National Science Digital Library. This means that you won’t get as many results from a general search (and that it’s generally okay to do a more general search) and that the results have somewhat better details.

I did a search for physics. Information about the search results was in German (huh?) but the results themselves were in English. Results include the title of the result, a brief summary, education level (which I wish had been more helpful; I didn’t see any levels that were grade- or age- specific) and sometimes information about usage license. Some of the data fields have magnifying glasses next to them; click on the magnifying glass next to an entries field and you’ll get a refined list of results whose information that field matches the one you clicked. For example, I could click on the magnifying glass next to a CC-BY license and get only those results that had a listed CC-BY license (an attribution license.)

Actually considering where this material was gathered from I’m very surprised there were not listings with licenses included. I think this just might be an issue of metadata not being complete or properly indexed. When I did a more specific search (for momentum) there were more results with CC licenses on the front page, and when I did a level-based search (kindergarten) I also got a pretty good number of results with CC licenses.

There is some gunk in the search results (moved pages, indexes, etc.) but not much. There’s an RSS feed icon at the bottom of the search results but when I tried to use it I got an error. The summaries and resource titles are good, and I found all my searches got plenty of results. A nice education resource search, though of course I’d love more metadata.

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