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Sunday, February 13, 2011

Three Simple Yet Awesome Search Tools

I know, I know, you already use Google and to find what you need. But allow me just three minutes of your time to share three sites you're not using yet, but will soon come to love.

Yippy began as a search engine called Clusty (called that because it created clusters of information). While the name hasn't improved much, the site is still as awesome as ever.

What's great about Yippy is that when you enter a term, it attempts to narrow your term in what it calls "clouds" (while still featuring all the resulting sites that match, as seen below).

For example, if you enter "Lord of the Flies," you'll be offered a number of clouds, or clusters, of narrowed down sites including Lord of the Flies Novel, Study Guide, Symbolism, Reviews, Quotes, Lesson Plans, etc.

What's also nice is that Yippy doesn't present inappropriate content, nor will it search for it. I entered "Stone Fox" (meaning the chapter book, not a slang description of a gorgeous woman) into the search window, and Yippy replied: Sorry. Yippy does not allow content of that nature on its cloud. Please try another query. It wasn't until I tried "Stone Fox" and "Novel" that it returned results.

Another way to make Yippy even more functional for students is to have them use it in Wii mode. By replacing the "www" in with "wii," you get a much cleaner, larger interface.

If you always use Google or for word definitions, it's time to break that habit. One Look is a multifunctional dictionary that offers some cool permutations of the normal search task.

As you can see from the screenshot below, it's easy to expand searches to find more than simple definitions. A student writing a poem on the topic "blue" will find the second option helpful, while another student wishing to create a word bank of winter sports words would find the seventh option helpful.

I recently used One Look while creating a teacher's guide for Encyclopedia Mythologica: Dragons and Monsters, to be published by Candlewick Press in April of this year. While the book itself offered tons of ideas for lesson extensions, I still wanted to "prime the pump" of my imagination as I brainstormed ideas. I therefore entered the search term *:monster, which returned the following in the first 100 results:

More than enough ideas to get started! And each of course is hyper-linked to a definition.

Another dictionary tool I've come to love is Wordnik. Wordnik provides quick definitions, but also current examples of the word in use on the Internet. Here are some results for the word dragon:

And as they say on television, But wait; there's more! On that same results page you'll also find simple synonyms and antonyms, etymology, plus stats for the word's appearance in print since 1800.

Armed with these resources, I was able to generate more than enough ideas to complete the teacher's guide for Dragons and Monsters. While many of the ideas existed in some form in my head, searching them out in this way allowed me to fine tune what was otherwise just a collection of random thoughts.

How would you use these sites? Are there others you'd recommend instead? Leave a comment below. And if you're interested in Dragons and Monsters, I'll be featuring teaching ideas and related links on my Teach with Picture Books site in March, along with the chance to win one of two copies of the book. Can't wait until then? You might want to check out teaching extensions for the previous title in the trilogy: Encyclopedia Mythologica: Gods and Heroes.


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