Archive for November, 2008

50 Awesome Semantic Apps for Educators

Wednesday, November 26th, 2008

The semantic web has been touted as the next great frontier on the Internet. Teaching computers to understand how the human brain categorizes and thinks is at the heart of this concept and promises to open the doors to easier and more efficient access to information on the Internet. For educators, this means that information available to students is of a higher caliber than what is sometimes available with traditional web applications. While this field is just starting to grow, there are several applications available right now of which educators can take advantage. From web browsing to research to blogging to collaboration, these apps will provide a taste of what may be on the horizon with the semantic web in education.

Web Browsing

Browsing the web can be difficult at times when you get bogged down in junk websites or dead links. These apps will enhance your browsing experience.

  1. BlueOrganizer. Add this button to your toolbar to start shortcuts based off your browsing history. Also, as you visit websites, BlueOrganizer inserts SmartLinks on your page that give you information on books, music, and movies relevant to what you are researching. You can also manage the things you find during your Internet searches and get widgets.
  2. SnapShots. When you add this app to your browser, you will get small windows as you hover over links that preview what is on that link. You can also add this to your blog to allow readers to preview and links you’ve included in your posts.
  3. Appalachian. Appalachian manages several OpenIDs to ease browsing and logging in to sites. This Firefox add-on can be especially useful in the classroom where logging in with many students could be a problem.
  4. Piggy Bank. Rather than bookmarking entire webpages, this Firefox add-on will allow you to save only the information you are interested in keeping from the websites you visit. The saved information can also be shared–a feature that is perfect for class projects.
  5. Gnosis. Use this app to get more information from the websites you visit. As you are reading, hover over identified topics to find out more information about them as provided by reputable sources such as BBC News, Google Finance, MSNBC, and Wikipedia. This browser extension can be used with both Firefox and Internet Explorer.
  6. headup. Combine content from several popular web services and enhance your browsing capabilities with this add-on. headup is currently in private beta, so you will need to request an invitation to us this app.
  7. Juice. Firefox users will enjoy this app that allows you to highlight text or video, then gives you relevant information about your highlighted material. You can also save and organize your information.
  8. Interclue. This Firefox add-on allows you to roll over a link while you are browsing the web and get a preview before you click on the link. This is a great tool to prevent clicking on dead links or links to sites with malware.
  9. Thumbstrips. Another Firefox add-on, this app provides you with a rolling strip of thumbnail images of the websites you’ve visited from your browsing history. Not only is this visual easier to use than the text form of the history, it is also a good way to keep tabs on what other users have been browsing when you have a computer used by more than one person.
  10. CoolPreviews. Similar to Interclue, this Firefox add-on previews websites before you click on them. It also includes a feature that allows you to email the link of the previewed websites to others with just a simple click.

General Web Searching and Research

Whether you are looking for resources for the classroom or your students are working on a project, these sources of information will make your searches more relevant and much quicker.

  1. Hakia. This popular search engine uses semantic technology and only accesses credible websites that are recommended by librarians.
  2. [true knowledge]. While this search engine is in beta, you can sign up to help the creators test it. If you want something a little more immediate, try their Quiz Bot that finds answers to your questions.
  3. DBpedia. Find information in Wikipedia with sophisticated questions with this app. Just recently, DBpedia expanded to be linked with Freebase.
  4. Powerset. Enter a topic, phrase, or question to find information from Wikipedia with this app. Your search results will include articles related to your search terms and often a direct answer to your question. You can also search by a person’s name and find fast facts about that person from all across Wikipedia.
  5. Zotero. This Firefox add-on helps you organize your research material by collecting, managing, and citing any references you want during your Internet research.
  6. Freebase. This community-powered database includes information on millions of topics. Search Freebase to get useful information and not the junk that sometimes comes with typical search engines. You can also contribute information as a member.
  7. Stumpedia. This "human powered" search engine relies on its users to index, organize, and review information coming from the Internet. Rather than relying on automated rankings, your search results here will be thoughtfully compiled by real people.
  8. Evri. This search engine relies on semantic technology to provide you with relevant results from articles, papers, blogs, images, audio, and video on the Internet.
  9. Gnod. Search for books, music, movies and people with this search engine that remembers your interests and focuses the search results on those things you are more likely to enjoy.
  10. Kartoo. Enter your keyword and you will receive a visual map of all the different topics that pertain to your keyword. Hover your mouse over each and you will see a thumbnail of the website along with a short description of the site.
  11. Boxxet. Search for what interests you and you will get results from the "best of" news, blogs, videos, photos, and more. Type in your keyword and in addition to the latest news on the topic, you will also receive search results, online collections, and more.
  12. Quintura. Enter your search terms and watch a cloud of related terms appear at the left while a list of links comes up on the right. Hover over one of the words or phrases in the cloud to get a whole new list of links. This search engine eliminates having to click through several spots to find what you want.

Specialized Research

With everything from medical publications to geography to politics to rhyming words, these resources for finding information on the Internet are sure to provide you and your students with exactly what you need.

  1. Citeline. Publish bibliographies and other citation collections online with this app. If you are a Zotero user, you can even install their Zotz add-on to have these two apps work together.
  2. GoPubMed. Search by keyword to find articles published in PubMed with this search engine. You can read the abstracts as well as organize and collect articles and link to the full articles.
  3. Gist. Enter search terms and find Reuters news stories enhanced with video, interactive graphs, and more. This amped-up news source is a great way to stay abreast of current events.
  4. NextBio. This search engine focuses solely on life sciences. You can search, compare your data, and even collaborate with others using this app.
  5. Daylife. Stay on top of breaking news with this semantic-powered site that offers some of the best global news stories. You can also get photos, articles, quotes, and more.
  6. Silobreaker. Silobreaker is a great tool to show how news and people in the news impacts the global culture. In addition to current stories, you can get maps, graphs of trends, networks of related people or topics, fact sheets, and more.
  7. geonames. Type in a place name anywhere around the world and get information such as population, altitude, latitude, and longitude. Click on the place name and you can get even more information including natural and man-made landmarks and a map.
  8. Enter your zip code into this tool and it will search across several different websites to collect data about the politics specific to your area. Once you get the information, you can then chose to take action by signing petitions or find out who to write and you can connect with others to start a movement for a cause close to your heart.
  9. Use this tool to keep track of everything going on in Congress. Research members of Congress, bills, who voted for what, and learn about Congressional committees.
  10. CIA-The World Fact Book. Get profiles of all the countries in the world as well as maps, flags, and much more within The World Fact Book.
  11. U.S. Census Bureau. Find all types of information about population, businesses, and people and they way they function within the United States with this government-sponsored tool.
  12. WordNet. Type in a word (noun, verb, adjective, or adverb only) and you will receive not only a definition for the word, but synonyms as well. Check out the FAQ section to learn how to cite your findings in a paper, the way this database of English words has grown, and more.
  13. RhymeZone. A fun tool for anyone struggling to find a rhyming word, this tool–that borrows its results from WordNet–also provides synonyms, antonyms, homophones, and plenty of other fun ways to play with words.


These apps will help your blogs become a better source of information for your readers as well as provide opportunities for your blog reading to become a more dynamic experience.

  1. Yahoo! Shortcuts. This app will help you create a more dynamic blog with more information available for your reader. As you compose your blog post, Shortcuts offers suggestions for photos and badges that you can incorporate into your blog.
  2. Lingospot. This app works similarly to Yahoo! Shortcuts, but also allows you to include related posts from your blog archives and liven up your blogroll.
  3. seesmic. This microblog uses videos to communicate rather than text posts. Using privacy settings, an entire class can communicate via video clips that are easy to create. As a class, you can explore videos from around the world in any number of languages.
  4. Tagaroo. Enhance your WordPress blog with this plug-in that allows you to add relevant tags and photos to your blog posts.
  5. MyBlogLog. Either allow your blog to record photos of participating visitors or have your photo added when you visit blogs. This app is a great way for building community through blogs.

Collaborating and Connecting with Others

From mindmapping to sharing data to finding information on people, these tools will help you and your students work together and share information much more easily.

  1. Text2Mindmap. Type in text as you brainstorm ideas for whatever project you are creating and this app will create a network of hubs using that text. This tool makes mind mapping a snap.
  2. Swirrl. This web-based app allows you to collect and share data, documents, ideas, and more. While this app works similarly to a wiki, it has features that take it a step further to better enhance your collaboration abilities.
  3. Twine. With Twine you can search for information, collect what you find, share with others, and even get recommendations from Twine on other resources. You can also find other people with similar interests and see what they have to offer from their collections.
  4. This collaborative site offers shared knowledge from its members through forums, blogs, and shared websites. You can participate in this private beta by emailing your contact information.
  5. Talk Digger. Find out what other people are saying about web sites, blogs, and specific topics with this app. A free registration is required to use this app.
  6. spock. Find anyone on the web through blogs, pictures, social networks, and websites with this app. You can search by name, email, location, or keyword.

The Fun Stuff

After all that hard work, everyone deserves a little reward. These fun apps offer constructive and instructive ways to have fun on the Internet.

  1. gwap. Play these five games and not only do you have a little fun, but your results from the games are actually used to help the search engines better understand the way the human mind works. You can enjoy some fun and help build the semantic web at the same time.
  2. TripIt. Whether you are planning to go away for a conference or you are counting the days until vacation, this app will help you plan every aspect of your trip from the flight to the itinerary as if you had a personal assistant overseeing your plans.
  3. musicmesh. Visit this site and music from your browsing history pops up with information from all the albums of a particular artist. Look at playlists, read reviews, find out where to purchase the music, and even add it to your favorites list.
  4. Glue. Search popular sites about anything from books to actors to stocks and you will see who else has visited these same topics and what they thought about them.

Get Into the Rhythm: 50 Open Courseware Collections for Musicians

Wednesday, November 12th, 2008

By Megan Jones

Finding a place to take free classes can be a bonus for musicians struggling to pay the rent. The following open courseware collections include classes, entire courses, and lessons that are sure to please the musician in you. Select from college courses from some of the top-ranked universities, educational open courseware collections, music schools, and even podcasts and webcasts.

University Collections

Whether you take music classes from MIT or learn about early cultures from Utah State University, these university collections offer plenty of quality classes.

  1. MIT OpenCourseware Music and Theater Arts. MIT offers a great collection of free music classes ranging from musical structures to specific music styles from around the world.
  2. Columbia Interactive Arts. These art classes offered through Columbia often include music classes such as the history of the pops or music from the renaissance and baroque.
  3. The Open University Arts and History. Search this section of The Open University’s courses to find plenty of music classes that include examples such as Creating musical sounds and Using film music in the classroom.
  4. Harvard University Extension School. These classes change every semester with only two semesters offered at a time, so stay updated with the course offering here. Some classes have included topics such as History of Blues in America.
  5. Gresham College. The lectures assembled here include several courses on music including such varied topics as Chamber Music Fights Back and The Composer in Action.
  6. Sofia Project. This project of the Foothill College offers only one music class at this time, but stay tuned for any potential additions in the future.
  7. Fathom. Search this site to discover all music courses offered from any of Fathom’s member institutions.
  8. Utah State University. The anthropology department offers a class on cultural anthropology that includes information about music, dance, and more in early civilizations.
  9. Brigham Young University Division of Continuing Education. The free classes offered here include organ workshops, English horn, and adult modern dance.

Open Educational Resources

From an open courseware consortium to a huge collection of free online books and texts on music, these resources will provide you with plenty of information to help your music appreciation.

  1. OER Commons. Search for "music" at this collection of shared lessons among teachers and professors and you will find a variety of classes that range from classes constructed by Pete Seeger to an introduction to musical instruments.
  2. Qedoc. This educational resource sharing site provides many helpful resources for musicians and music teachers with such fun items as the Country Music Nicknames Quiz and Famous Composers I.
  3. Connexions. With topics such as Noisy Learning, Michael’s Sound Reasoning, and A Parent’s Guide to Band, you know the courses here will be varied and interesting. Just click on "Arts" or search for "music" in the search box.
  4. Federal Resources for Educational Excellence. Learn about music on this government site that provides information ranging from Broadway to blues to gospel.
  5. Open Vault. This media library and archives provides 140 different music lectures, videos, and more that go back from 1973.
  6. Open Courseware Consortium. Search for any musical topic with this resource and find open courseware classes offered by any of the consortium participants.
  7. MERLOT. Find almost 300 educational music classes and resources all specifically designed for faculty and students of higher education, but available to anyone.
  8. World Lecture Hall. Search for "music" at this site and find courses from around the world with topics on music such as Rhetoric of Popular Music and Physics of Sound.
  9. Project Gutenberg. While not technically an open courseware collection, this amazing resource of free downloadable books offers enough information to fill a number of courses with topics on any music subject you could want to learn about.

Music-Only Resources

These resources focus only on music instruction through either specific instrument lessons or with classes on music theory, songwriting, and more.

  1. Berklee Shares. This premier free music lesson site offers a wide variety of classes any musician can enjoy. Study specific instruments or more technical aspects of making music.
  2. Ricci Adams’ Search by lessons, trainers, or utilities to find a vast amount of free lessons and classes from this site.
  3. May Music Studio. Learn to play an instrument with the free lessons on this site or find out about music theory, songwriting, and more with the more academic classes offered.
  4. Gary Ewer’s Easy Music Theory. Get 26 free lessons complete with an instruction sheet, quizzes, and answer sheets to learn the basics about music theory.
  5. These ten lessons culminate with an examination to see how far you’ve come. Using a combination of video, text, and photos, these lessons will have you playing the piano in no time.
  6. PracticeSpot. Get resources, classes, and much more from this site that specializes in helping musicians improve their talent.
  7. Folk of the Wood Acoustic Classes. Learn to play the mandolin, violin, mountain dulcimer, banjo and more at this site that specializes in wooden instruments.
  8. Drum Bum Drum Database. This huge database offers many lessons about drumming in general and for specific drum types.

Free Lessons and Classes

These free lessons and classes don’t necessarily come from a university or music school, but offer a great selection that will provide you with the information and lessons you want.

  1. About U. Take a wide variety of music and music related classes here that range from guitar lessons to learning about pop music.
  2. Wikiversity. Get free classes on music theory, music appreciation, understanding music, and more at this resource that offers open source classes.
  3. Learn about classical music, jazz or opera; learn to play the guitar; learn how to get signed to a record label; and much more on this site that makes it easy to learn how to do what you want.
  4. Free Online Education. Look through the free online music classes available through this resource with everything from drum lessons to a history of music class.
  5. Instructables. Find short, simple and fun lessons that range from making a drum to building a stereo tube amp.
  6. Essentials of Music. This site has a wealth of information about classical music which includes articles, a glossary, and more.
  7. BBC Training & Development Radio Courses. Learn important radio skills such as editing and interviewing with these free online courses from the BBC.
  8. Free or Affordable Distance Education. This site offers a good selection of free online dance classes that anyone interested in combining their love of music with dance should check out.

Videos, Podcasts, and Webcasts

From full university courses to lectures from experts in the field to interviews with musicians, these podcasts, videos, and webcasts bring you many hours of free instruction.

  1. UC Berkeley Webcast Courses. Study such interesting classes as Earthquakes and Music from the offerings found here. Be sure to browse through the older course offerings as well.
  2. KQED Radio Perspectives. Get podcasts from this California radio station and learn what radio listeners find worth discussing.
  3. Stanford on iTunes. Download courses from Stanford that you can listen to on your iPod. Open the application and search for "music" to find plenty of classes for you to enjoy.
  4. How to Play the Cello. Watch these videos to learn the basics about playing the cello. From storage and cleaning to finger position to tuning, you will begin to feel more comfortable with your cello after this primer.
  5. Violin Masterclass. With these Quicktime videos, you can learn all you need to know to get started playing the violin. There is also a section just for children learning to play.
  6. Guitar Noise Podcast. Get 30 minute guitar lessons for free with this podcast that brings you everything from basic strumming to advanced techniques.
  7. Front Row. From Boston College, these podcasts offer a wide variety of lectures. Search for "music" and come up with subjects as varied as the roots of Gaelic music or Russian rock music.
  8. UChannel. Get educational lectures on these podcasts from member organizations. Some of the music-related subjects include programs as The New Mediterranean Symposium, We-think: the power of mass creativity, and Future Radio.
  9. University of British Columbia Podcasts. Scroll through these podcasts to find lectures on subjects such as opera and music from the play "Beautiful Thing."
  10. University of Oregon Campus Radio. Stream two different campus radio stations from UO, one of which offers university talk radio in addition to eclectic music.
  11. University of Virginia Podcasts & Webcasts. Do a search for music among these podcasts to pull up some interesting podcasts and webcasts that explore such topics as bridging cultures through music and music as medicine.
  12. University of Washington Television. Get videos that educate and explore music in video classes that include contemporary composers and piano power.
  13. NPR Podcast Directory Music. Browse through this collection of podcasts offered by NPR affiliate stations that touch on various topics of music including A Musician’s Life, musician interviews, and more.
  14. Open Source. The podcasts here courtesy of Brown University include a variety of topics that sometimes touch on the musical. Listen to learn about the Tanglewood Music Center or the connection between Bob Marley and Barack Obama at a literary festival in Jamaica.
  15. Library of Congress Webcasts. Browse through the titles here within the "Culture, Performing Arts" section to find a decent listing on music-related webcasts.
  16. WGBH Forum Network. The lectures here are provided by some of the best cultural and educational institutions in Boston. Click on the "music" section for several interesting webcasts.