App of the Week: Qwiki

Title: Qwiki
Platform: iPad – requires iOS 3.2 or later
Cost: Free

The idea of Qwiki, a search site that recently become available as an iPad app, is to present search results in movie form. (The movies are called Qwikis.) Type in a search, say Hunger Games, and the result is a short Qwiki that tells about the search topic. With Hunger Games, viewers learn about the author, when the book was published, and a bit about the plot. The Qwiki is narrated by a female computer voice and as the information is spoken images change to coincide with topics covered in the audio.

With the iPad app, Qwiki is a scaled down version of the web search tool, yet, when using the app on an iPad it seems like Qwiki was meant for the tablet format. The videos fit the screen perfectly and the interface for locating more information on a topic, or for finding information about a location, are intuitive and easy to use.

qwiki front pageThe app front page changes on a regular basis. There is always a Qwiki of the Day, along with links to the most popular searches, links to Qwikis related to the current location, and links to Qwikis for popular locations. If location services are turned off on the iPad, then the examples are generic and not tied to the current location of the user. In other words, when I have location services activated, on the front screen of Qwiki I see links to Qwikis related to New York City. When location services are turned off what I see on the front Qwiki screen are Qwikis on locations around the world.

There are also several categories of searches available from a main menu on every Qwiki screen. These include cities, natural wonders, and monuments, along with actors and Daily, which provides links to the most recent Qwikis of the day.

Users of Qwiki do not have to use one of the predetermined categories in order to find information. Every screen also includes a search box.

qwiki front page Once viewing a Qwiki it’s possible to turn captioning on and off and to click on an image or video to see it in greater detail in order to learn more about it – where it came from and what it shows.

All Qwikis also link to related Qwikis – in the app these are either available at the end of a Qwiki or by clicking on the + sign at the bottom right of the screen. These related searches are useful in order to learn more about a topic. Teens can definitely find more threads to pursue in their research by checking out the related Qwikis.

qwiki map with location searchThe location-based features of the Qwiki app are pretty compelling. If a user has location services enabled, Qwiki knows where a user is and shows links to Qwikis of sites of interest in the immediate area. If the location services are disabled, a user can still find information about what’s nearby as the map includes a link for typing in a location and generating results for Qwikis related to that location.

The maps in Qwiki also include drop-pins that when clicked provide a short snippet of information about where the pin is placed and with a link to a Qwiki about the location.

When the Qwiki app launched the company’s blog announcement included this line, “Our iPad app highlights the appeal of the Information experience by providing users with a beautiful, interactive, and intuitive way to discover millions of topics.” It is the “beautiful, interactive, and intuitive” way of searching that will appeal to teens as they look for information about topics of interest (school or personal). Carrying Qwiki under the arm, while walking around with an iPad, means having quick visual and audio access to search results on a wide-array of topics.

While some of the information available via the Qwiki app is limited, the ability to view images and listen to results while performing research has a lot of benefits for teens who may need more than a text-based results list in order to be successful in the research process. At the price of free, the Qwiki iPad app is definitely worth checking out and letting teens know about. It is one more tool they may use when searching for information using a digital device.

Published by

Linda W Braun

Linda W Braun is a YALSA Past President, the YALSA CE Consultant, and a learning consultant/project management coordinator at LEO: Librarians & Educators Online.