Title: Wikiweb
Cost: $4.99
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.
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Over the past week I’ve been reading about teens and technology and about the media’s handling of major news events. A theme running through the reading I’ve been doing is that critical thinking is an important part of what adults and teens need to do in order to make good technology decisions. For example:

  • I’m not sure why I didn’t start following @larrymagid (Larry Magid) on Twitter until a couple of weeks ago, but now that I am following him, I’ve discovered three recent articles by Magid that serve to highlight the important role critical thinking plays when it comes to teens and technology.

    On June 22 Magid wrote on his blog about the need to give students a chance to use technology as a critical thinking tool and not simply outlaw devices because students might use them to cheat. Read More →

Today when I read of the indictment of the woman whose harassment of a teen girl on MySpace led to the girl’s suicide, I wanted to cheer. The indictment was not however brought by the state in which the crime took place, the state couldn’t find enough evidence to indict locally, it was brought by the federal government. As the article in The New York Times states:

…Because MySpace, a unit of Fox Interactive Media, is based in Beverly Hills, Calif., and its server is here, federal prosecutors decided to wield a federal statute that is generally used to prosecute fraud that occurs across state lines.

The statute applies in the case, the indictment says, because by violating the user agreement of MySpace, which prohibits phony accounts, Ms. Drew was seeking information “to further a tortuous act, namely, intentional infliction of emotional distress.”

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What if you were told by your powers that be that the library was no longer going to provide web-based homework support? No more categorized links to web sites on topics covered in the classroom. No more 24/7 Ask a Librarian for homework. No more special web sites that are just about how to do homework.

If you were told this would you think, (and maybe say out loud) “Oh no, this is impossible, we have to have web-based homework support for teens? The teens need it?” Why would you think that? How would you know the teens not only need it but they want and use it?

Maybe it’s time for libraries to re-think their notions about web-based homework support for teens. How many teens do you know that go to the library’s homework help pages before or instead of going to Google or Wikipedia? How many teens do you know that think about the library at all as a place to go for homework help when on the web? Is web-based homework support for teens a waste of time and money?

It’s true, that by providing this support libraries show the community (including teens) that the library is available for homework help – face-to-face and online. But, maybe it’s not worth spending the money and the staff effort to keep such an endeavor going.

This isn’t to say that libraries shouldn’t have a web presence in order to help teens with homework, and of course other information needs that teens have. But, instead of making the teens come to the library web site it’s time to start being where the teens are and perhaps give up the clunky web presence that rarely can compete with Google or Wikipedia. For example, some libraries have already created applications for popular social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace so that teens can search the catalog from within the social network instead of having to go to the library web site to do that.

There needs to be more of this kind of library web development for teens. What if database vendors created applications for social networking sites so teens could search the database without leaving their online social home? (BTW, some vendors already do this.) What if the library created applications for Facebook or MySpace to help teens write citations? What if there were applications for building searches successfully? What if there were applications for….

If teens are going to Wikipedia for information, what about making sure that Wikipedia entries on topics that teens in your community have homework on reflect the informational needs of the teens? (Anyone can add or create a Wikipedia entry, wouldn’t it make sense for librarians to be in Wikipedia working on the content in order to support their communities?)

Where are the teens in your community going to find homework information? Where do teens spend most of their time on the web? Lets face it, it’s easier to go where the teens are in order to help them then to make them come to us. So, why not take the easy path? Give up the big web presence and find out how you can have a homework presence in MySpace, Facebook, Google, Wikipedia, YouTube, Flickr, Ask.com, etc.

After Wikipedia banned Stephen Colbert from editing or adding comments to their site because he was making erroneous additions, CNET teen intern writes about some of the pitfalls of Wikipedia. What do others think? Do you try to steer library users away from Wikipedia or find the opportunity for a ‘teaching moment’?

Posted by Kelly Czarnecki