Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Commentary: Sotir: The Problem with Widgets...

The problem I have with Web 2.0 apps like widgets is that I can't stop using them. Widgetbox.com (see next post) has over 1200 education widgets alone. There just isn't enough room for them all on this Blog (or the other dozen or so Blogs that I manage...). If you are asking 'what's a widget?' let me explain. Widgets are cute little html coded mini-websites that you can add to things like Blogs and Wikis, Facebook, My Space...and even your iPhone. They do things like check your English prowess, help you learn English (or Spanish or German or...), keep up on news, sports scores and politics, count calories, get green (or stay green), or learn to be a better parent. You can add a graphing or scientific calculator to your math or science Blog, or check out the solar system in 3D. You can while away the hours with games or access musings on intersections of literature and life. Are you interested in history, or perhaps want to immerse yourself in Jane Austen's world? There are widgets for that. The real problem with widgets is that there are too many that I just can't wait to add to my sites. I could always create more Blogs so that I would have plenty of places to widget my time away, but that only compounds the problem. Be warned...they are quite addictive. And word to the wise: check out the widget for a little while before you add them to your student Blogs. Some content may not be appropriate, and you have no control over the content that appears. Widget on!

Seeking Widgets? Try Widgetbox.com


This is a site for all widget-y things. There are categories to peruse, and widgets are easily transferred to your Blog, Wiki or other site. Very simple to use, and transfer. There were 1293 education widgets to check, as of the date I created this post. Also, these widgets can be used on the iPhone and iPod Touch, with the exception of anything that requires flash (FYI to my Apple pals: lack of ability to use flash on my iPhone is really getting me down). Otherwise, set default at 290 pixels and you can add any of the widgets to your phone/iPod.

English Level Test Widget

Here's a quick little Web 2.0 widget from Widgetbox.com for ESL: (http://www.widgetbox.com/widget/english-level-test) which gives you a quick test of English ability level. It is only 21 questions so the end result is less than perfect, but it's a good check of someone's understanding of English. I added it to the bottom of the right hand column of this Blog so you can try it out. You can paste the widget directly from the Widgetbox site to your Blog or Wiki.

I also added a Free English Widget and Learn English Widget. The problem is that there are many widgets, and limited Blog space. Try these out and see what widgets can do to enhance your classroom Blog sites.


http://www.webware.com/ Cool Web 2.0 apps for everyone...

Are you feeling like a hamster in a wheel while trying to keep up with all the new Web 2.0 apps? Does your brain need an RSS feed? Here's a site that can help sort it all out for you. Along with reviews of new 2.0 apps, there are tools such as 'newbie guides' (and being a 'newbie' is not nearly as disconcerting as being a 'dummy') to help you understand things like Facebook Twitter Flickr Google RSS Flock .

Here's what they say about themselves:

"There's a shift underway in how people use computers and the Internet. Every day more utility is being delivered over the Web. Full applications can now be run in a browser, accessible from any computer. Software? It's no longer required. Software is becoming Webware.
There are different types of Webware.
Productivity applications. Microsoft may own the desktop, but not the Web. Online, Google has solid productivity apps. And there are dozens of upstarts in this market too.
Data-driven applications. Many new online services rely on real-time data that simply could not be encapsulated into software. Examples include Google Maps, Zillow and Farecast.
Community services. Webware enables people to network, share their lives, and work together. Examples are MySpace, LinkedIn, YouTube, and SmartSheet.
Webware.com is the site where computer users can learn about new and useful Web applications."

So rather than wear yourself out, let Webware.com take the lead in explaining 2.0 apps that you can use. The newbie guides are well-written and explain the concepts of several hot apps in terms that you can understand.

Blog Tool/Social Network: Profy.com

http://www.profy.com/ Profy is a new platform for blogging and managing RSS feeds. Following is a review from Webware.com about this new site, which is currently in beta format:

(Profy sets up) "a vast network of interconnected social sites that your users can navigate to and fro while retaining the feeling of being on the same service.
Besides having a fairly standard WYSIWYG blogging interface, and integrated RSS feed reader, the real draw to the app is its interconnected social network. You can add other Profy users and blog owners as friends and contacts. The service goes as far as integrating instant messaging and presence management to let you know when someone's online. Once you've added people as friends, you can then keep track of their new blog posts, along with what they're reading if they've opted to share what RSS feeds they're subscribed to. The RSS reader itself isn't too shoddy either. While not as feature rich as the big guys, I actually prefer its layout to Google Reader's (at least on our RSS feed) because it displays who the author is on the title of each post.

Everything seems designed with a simple user in mind. There's no access to your blog's CSS, instead everything is simplified down to a fairly sizable collection of templates that can be custom-tailored (very much like Ning) with the user picking where they want each site element to go. The same goes for the domain, which lives under the Profy.com moniker and can't be linked up to one you already own. All these things make it very simple to get started and make changes on the go, but power users will likely want a little more." (review from Webware.com)