Saturday, May 30, 2009

Wonder Wheel

While I'm on a roll (2 posts within 24 hrs!) and talking about Google, I thought I'd talk a little about another recently launched Google product called Wonder Wheel. It's a new (and kind of buried) feature for Google Search (and I'm unclear if it's available to everyone by default yet or not) that I think has some potential use for our students and for information literacy instruction.

You can read about what this tool is, step-by-step, here and here. Basically, it's a visual keyword map/thesaurus, which allows you to drill down into specific aspects of a topic; to explore the relationships between terms. When you click on a related or sub-term, it shows you new results based on that new term. Below is a screen capture I did for "drug abuse." (a topic I use a lot for instruction exercises).

In effect, this is very similar to tools such as VisualThesaurus, but more practical from the student perspective (because it is integrated into Google!). This kind of tool, properly taught within the context of information evaluation and basic discipline terminology (because I'm assuming Wonder Wheel terms displayed are based not on any controlled or discipline-related terminology), could be useful for information literacy instruction in helping students overcome the all too common issues of paper topic narrowing and finding a usable place to start getting a handle on the terminology surrounding that topic.

If only it was integrated into Google Scholar and Google Books! Hopefully that will come in time, and not get spoiled by the inevitable monetization of the product via paid placement, etc..

Friday, May 29, 2009

Quick Thoughts on Google Wave

I haven't posted on here in ages. Seems recent personal events (I'm single for the 1st time in years) and my dual twitter and gaming addictions have seriously eroded my blogging output!

Anyways, some brief, initial thoughts on Google's recently announced Wave product. It has generated a decent amount of blogosphere chatter already and I imagine that once a public version is launched and developers start cranking out apps from it, there will be much more discussion and argument about how we communicate, collaborate and socialize online and how this does or doesn't change things. I suspect that this tool won't be an end-all-be-all, paradigm-changing product, even on a par with Twitter, but it may mark the beginning of a shift away from what has now been several decades of "traditional" email communication, and in my scifi-addled mind, move us one more tiny step towards a less-nefarious version of a Borg-like collective intelligence.

From a library standpoint, this sort of path may further muddle (but I hope in the end, after unavoidable growing pains, help us overcome) already seriously backwards and muddied online intellectual property and copyright issues and laws. Where we will end up is anyone's guess, but I'm excited to see the discussions that grow out of all this.