App of the Week: Leafsnap

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Name: Leafsnap
Platform: iOS
Cost: Free

Leafsnap has languished for years on my phone. The app represents the sort of big audacious online project that we as librarians need to know about. Merging geographic location with image recognition, it combines reports from the field to produce an interactive electronic guide.

For the end user, Leafsnap is designed to make a “best guess” about the species of a plant, based on an image of a leaf you upload or input through the camera. I hadn’t been able to use it before last week. It’s limitation? Spearheaded by the Columbia University, the University of Maryland, and the Smithsonian Institution, Leafsnap is crowd-sourced, and a caveat warns that the database best reflects the northeasten U.S. for the time being (though there is a U.K. version, too). When I heard someone speculating about the name of a specific tree while I was in Massachusetts, I was happy to put the tool to work.
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Crowdsourcing, Youth Participation, Which Is It?

Today I read a blog post about The Smithsonian crowdsourcing its vision on YouTube. As Beth Kanter writes on her blog:

The Smithsonian has opened the conversation up to the world and is inviting people to submit a one-minute video sharing their vision for the Institution’s future. The question they’re asking: Given the news ways of acquiring and sharing knowledge through technology: the internet, social networking, video sharing, and cell phones—where do you see the Smithsonian’s museums and websites going in the future? How can we make education more relevant to you in a digital age?

When I read that I first thought, “What a great idea.” Continue reading