Platform: iPod, iPod Touch, iPhone, iPad - requires iOS 5 or later
It's back to school time and this month the YALSA App of the Week bloggers are noting that and focusing each week on apps that are good for students and teachers. We'll cover research, science, math, and staying organized. If you have a favorite school related app feel free to post information about it in the comments on our App of the Week posts. And, don't forget, the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) is taking nominations for Best Apps for Teaching and Learning. You can make a nomination on the AASL website.
Anyone who still laments the loss of Google's Wonder Wheel, or is looking for a tool to help teens to see connections between ideas will want to give Wikiweb a try.
There are two sides to the Wikiweb screen. The left side of the screen shows the map of a search and the connections between terms and ideas. On the right is where articles from Wikipedia (Wikiweb just searches Wikipedia) are displayed that relate to a specific search term or phrase. Check out the video from Wikiweb that provides a good overview of how the app works.
In some ways the power of Wikiweb is in the way that a researcher can build a diagram by tapping on various links in a Wikipedia article. For example, I started with a Hunger Games search. Instead of tapping on the hexagon that appeared on the left of the screen I built my own web by tapping on different links within The Hunger Games and related articles in Wikipedia. I tapped on Suzanne Collins in that article and then tapped on Nickelodeon, and then went back to Suzanne Collins and tapped on Katniss Everdeen. With each tap a hexagon was added to the map which showed the connections between the different people, organizations, and so on all related to The Hunger Games in some way. It's a good way to see how and why connections exist.
Of course it is possible to have Wikiweb build a map for you and that's accomplished by simply tapping on the hexagon for a particular term or phrase. It can be surprising to see what appears in those maps built by Wikiweb and it could work really well to have teens search a topic of interest, look at the connections Wikiweb shows on their map and talk about the value of those connections. Teens could then create their own map that shows the connections that they think are most valuable related to their topic of interest.
Maps can be shared via email and Twitter. If students are working on a project together they could build maps and share them with each other to show their ideas and what they think their team should focus on.
The app isn't perfect. I wish that it was possible to have all labels appear. They come and go based on what's on the screen. (Although when a map is shared all of the labels appear.) But, even with a few flaws, this is an app that can help teens think through their research and visualize ideas.
For more app recommendations visit the App of the Week Archive.