Hakia update

A previous post focussed on the Hakia search engine that prides itself on its credibility. The people who have joined Hakia as a member receive an occasional email update. From their latest update, Hakia says:

Imagine a digital newspaper of your own, a Web page where you can park searches or even better your questions. A system monitors new information from news sources with semantic precision everyday just for you. When you open your digital newspaper page, all relevant news articles are then displayed in an alignment of your choice. WE HAVE ALREADY BUILT THIS SERVICE FOR YOU! Go to my.hakia.com and customize your own digital newspaper.

Customising your own page is quick and easy. News headlines for Australia are available (but weather is not). Users are able to move customised selections around the page (even after selecting Australian headlines, US and Europe headlines were featured at the top of the page, however, bringing Australian headlines up to the top of the page means that it sticks there, saving the user having to scroll through the page.

Hakia are keen to hear from users about ideas to make Hakia and the web even better. Drop them a line at myidea@hakia.com with your thoughts.


edmodo is a communication platform specifically designed for students and teachers. Being designed specifically for this audience, privacy of students was a main concern for developers.  

My Edmodo Homepage

My edmodo Homepage (no link as page is private)

As the edmodo blog states:

  • ‘What is edmodo? edmodo is a private microblogging platform that teachers and students can use to send notes, links, files, alerts, assignments, and events to each other.
  • How does it work? Teachers sign up for accounts, and then create groups. Each group has a unique code which is distributed by the teacher to the class. Students then sign up (no email address required) and join the group using the code.
  • What is the locker? All users can add any post or reply to their locker. After posts have been added to a user’s locker, they can be organized and filtered using tags. Posts can also be sent directly to a user’s own locker.
  • What are the edmodo and supportgroups? During the initial stages of edmodo, when a teacher signs up they are automatically added to the edmodo and support groups in order to give all early-adopters a chance to connect and report bugs.’

edmodo has the facility for teachers to upload assignments and also for students to click on the ‘turn in assignment’ button which uploads their responses. Teachers can even send their assessment and feedback to students via edmodo. edmodo developers are keen to hear from users about this idea and how it has worked (or not worked well) with classes.

edmodo also provides comprehensive ‘how to’ documents in the form of a wiki. There are currently four guides; a how to for teachers, a how to for students, posting to edmodo and uploading an avatar. A how to use edmodo video can be accessed here.

edmodo seems to be a very interesting and potentially valuable tool for classroom teachers and students. A bonus is that students do not need an email address to use edmodo.

Netvibes @ Preston Girls’ Secondary College

On discovering Netvibes as a result of a previous Bright Ideas post, Preston Girls’ Secondary College teacher librarians Judith Way and Reina Phung couldn’t wait to use it as a resource for students and staff.

Judith says, ‘We had been looking for a Web 2.0 tool where I could incorporate all of the other things we had developed. We needed a central location for all of our blogs, wikis and our Flickr and Delicious accounts. Although Delicious allows us to link sites and describe them, Netvibes gives us the option to incorporate each blog, wiki and other site into our Netvibes homepage. (We also had a problem with our ISP blocking Delicious. This has been an ongoing problem for some months and our IT technician has been liaising with our ISP, but at this moment, to no avail.)’

She explains, ‘Once the blogs, wikis, etc. have been linked to the Netvibes page, the actual sites appear within the page. You can set the size of each “mini page”. Students and staff can then enter their chosen site directly, without a need to click a link or open a new page.’

Judith continues, ‘Netvibes also enables us to dedicate pages for staff and pages for students. We intend to use the widget function to add a calendar so students can see when the Readers Cup is scheduled, when Book Club is due in and when Book Week occurs. Our Netvibes page is linked from our intranet and we plan to promote it by encouraging students to explore it during library orienation sessions, by making and distributing bookmarks with the URL and by introducing Netvibes at a staff meeting.’

Judith also says she found Netvibes relatively quick and easy to use and has even been complemented by the school’s IT technician on her work!

Netvibes can also be used as an RSS reader, so those people using Bloglines, Google Reader or other RSS services may decide to use Netvibes instead. Your RSS feeds can be set as ‘private’ allowing only you to access them.

We look forward to hearing how the staff and students at Preston Girls’ use the site and their thoughts on it.

ToonDoo update

Since writing the post on ToonDoo in mid-December, ToonDoo has made some interesting additions and modifications to its site. An email from ‘ToonDudette’ Meera explains the following:

‘Thanks to concerns (related to inappropriate content) from many educators, we will soon be offering exclusive school domains (such as schoolname.toondoo.com) Many schools have already signed up with us for this service. Here’s how it will work:

  • We will provide a separate domain for each school (for example: http://www.schoolname.toondoo.com/).
  • ONLY students of that school will be able to create toons at this domain but any one will be able to view them on the internet, embed them in blogs,wikis etc.
  • We will let the teachers completely own the editorial rights in this case. That would mean they can monitor the content, block inappropriate toons and also do the editor picks.
  • The domain will be free of charge during the beta testing phase of six months, post which there would be nominal annual charges for it.’

My understanding is that toons can still be kept private, shared with selected others or viewed publicly, depending on the wishes of the students and the school. It will be interesting to see what the ‘nominal’ charge will be. If you are interested, please contact Meera Sapra:meerasapra@toondoo.com.


Worldcat is a catalogue that links users to approximately 10,000 libraries worldwide and contains details of over 1.2 billion items.

People interested can use Worldcat just as a catalogue, to see if an item is available in a library near them. The advantage of using Worldcat is that if you are a member of several public library services, one simple Worldcat search can list where the item is located. By simply selecting what type of item you are looking for (books, DVDs, CDs and articles), entering a search term and then your postcode, Worldcat will then list the libraries nearest you that hold that item. Often Worldcat can give you the distance from your postcode to the nearest libraries with the item. Users can also set their ‘favourite’ libraries which will be listed first. Currently some of the Victorian libraries that have their holdings listed on Worldcat are:

Please be aware that some results pertaining to libraries holding particular items are not always 100% correct. Some items are listed in Worldcat results and some are not. Not sure whether that is a Worldcat issue or participating library issue.

However, users can also signup for a free account that enables them to add content to the Worldcat website. Currently lists (think Librarything or lists created in Amazon), bibliographies and reviews can be added to the site. Users can modify or delete their own review, ‘but other users can edit information that has been contributed under Details (similar to Wikipedia).’

For those library staff out there that occasionally need to do some original cataloguing if items cannot be found on SCIS, Library Link Victoria or Libraries Australia, Worldcat is a great last resort before having to invent the wheel yourself.

Worldcat are also currently trialling Worldcat mobile where according to their website, users can:

  • Search for library materials—Enter search terms such as keywords, author or title
  • Find a WorldCat library near you—Enter your ZIP, postal code or location in the Libraries Locator
  • Call a library—Highlight and click the phone number in a library listing to place a call
  • Map a route—Find the fastest way to a WorldCat library using the mapping software already on your device
Worldcat mobile
Worldcat mobile
Currently this service is only available to residents of the US and Canada, but here’s hoping for wider coverage once the trial is complete.


Picsearch is an interesting way to search for images (including clip art) on the web. It has three features that make it unique.

The first feature is that it has a ‘Family Friendly’ filter that is supposed to filter out any offensive images, which has to be a relief for educators. (Not exactly sure what their definition of offensive means, as what offends one person may not offend another. Suffice to say that if Picsearch’s claims are true, then it should be safe for all schools to use.) Picsearch claims that it is impossible for their filters to be bypassed, but also offer the service that if an offensive is discovered, send them the relevant details and they will block the site. As with any resource you use, before you unleash it on your students, if you have any doubts, have a play around with Picsearch yourself to see if you are happy with it.

The second feature is that ‘It has a relevancy unrivalled on the web due to its patent-pending indexing algorithms’.

The third feature is the ease of which images can be attributed. As Picsearch’s FAQs page says,

  • Picsearch downloads the original images only to create thumbnail images. Afterwards the original images are removed. Thus, users can only view the thumbnails when searching for a specific image. The thumbnails are accompanied by references to the original page it was indexed from. This enables the users to visit the original page and obtain the appropriate permissions to use the image.

This goes some way to relieving the copyright issues facing schools and teaches students to attribute their sources.

Thanks to Chris Smith of Shambles for the alert on Picsearch.


Originally this post was going to be about Pageflakes, the Web 2.0 tool that enables users to create their own homepage without the need for HTML or any other specialist knowledge. But some time ago, this post by Michael Stephens came to my attention. It is certainly worth a read and warns what could become of all of the work we invest in particular Web 2.0 tools; we need some kind of backup. So on the back of what Dublin City Public Libraries have developed via the main alternative, Netvibes, here is some more information.

Netvibes is a tool that allows you create your own library (or other) homepage to bring all of your web resources to one place. So if as a school library you have a blog, some wikis, delicious, flickr  and so on, you are able to have them all sited on your Netvibes page.

Your own Netvibes page is as easy to set up as a blog or wiki. Netvibes have a setup wizard that asks what type of theme you’d like to use, your location, your (or your school’s) interests, the widgets you want and you have your page! Here is what the Dublin City Public Libraries’ page looks like:

If you don’t like the choices that Netvibes has made for you, you can easily delete them and add others. If you have setup your own blog or wiki, then you can make your own Netvibes page in a matter of minutes. Don’t forget to ask your IT staff to link your Netvibes page to the Intranet, do some publicity and away you go. Good luck! If you do decide to create a Netvibes or Pageflakes page for your library or you already have one, please consider submitting it to Bright Ideas so that we can feature it.

Text 2 Mind Map

Text 2 Mind Map is a very simple and easy way to use Mind Maps in the classroom and you certainly don’t have to have a degree in astrophysics or brain surgery to complete a good map quickly.

You don’t have to sign up a for an account, just go to the Text 2 Mind Map homepage, delete the example in the text outline box on the left hand side of the page


and away you go. Type in your ideas, using the tab key to indent sub-topics. When you have listed all of your ideas, simply click the ‘Convert to Mind Map’ button. Here is an example that took five minutes to complete.

The right hand side of the screen gives you choices as to the size and colour of the font, the thickness of the lines joining ideas and the colours of the idea boxes.

You are given the option to save your map, but be careful if your browser doesn’t allow pop-ups as you may lose your map. You could always copy the map using Jing or even Paint before you try to save it.

Text 2 Mind Map is still very much under construction, so if you do use it, please do send feedback to the developers so that they can take your comments and ideas on board.


An interesting Web 2.0 resource that could be useful for the beginning of the school year is thisMoment.

thisMoment is a type of digital portfolio that can chronicle events in a person’s life. As with all of the best Web 2.0 tools that can be used for educational purposes, thisMoment has privacy settings so that students’ work can be shared only with selected people.

‘Moments’ appear in the form of a timeline, with the ability for you to upload photos or videos alongside the text that you write; a description of what the moment is and how it made you feel. Getting students to create their own moments could be a great way of getting to know them at the beginning of the year. If thisMoment was introduced to year 6 students on orientation day, they could collect moments over the Christmas holidays ready to upload and share with their new school mates and teachers. For those schools with pets, accounts for pets can be created and (for example) the life cycle of a pet could be chronicled. This type of activity has applications for VELS areas such as Science, English, Humanities, ICT and Personal Learning

There are lots of social networking tools that users can tweak to add to their thisMoment experience.


Elluminate is an online ‘lecture capture’ application that is currently available free of charge to all Victorian educators (State, Independent and Catholic schools are all included) through the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development’s Knowledge Bank.

Elluminate lets people communicate in real time via their Internet connection. People who schedule an Elluminate session meet in a ‘room’. They are able to speak to each other via a headset with microphone, use the chat function, raise their hand to ask a question, draw on a whiteboard amongst other things. The moderator or person running the session is able to upload powerpoint style slides to give the session a focus. At the end, sessions can be saved and archived for access at a later time.

Once Elluminate is installed via the Knowledge Bank page, users are able to access demonstrations, archived sessions and participate in online training sessions. There are two sessions on how to use Elluminate coming up in the next few weeks; Tuesday 13th January at 3.30pm  and Tuesday 27th January at 3.30pm. To participate in these very useful sessions, click on the date/s above to register. (Please be aware that you will need a headset with microphone and have downloaded Elluminate prior to the session.) Once users are confident using Elluminate, rooms can be booked to run your own online sessions.

A view of an Elluminate room

Elluminate has so many possibilities in regard to educational applications; staff can capture professional development sessions or staff meetings for part-timers or those who are absent. Those schools who find attending professional development sessions difficult due to distance or funding can access Elluminate sessions easily and for free. And archived sessions mean that you can revisit a session at anytime. Elluminate also has uses to work with students in a virtual enviroment. Once you become confident using Elluminate, the rest is up to your imagination. 

For examples of previous Elluminate sessions, click here. A previous Bright Ideas post on Professor Stephen Heppell linked to his Knowledge Bank visit. To access it, click here.

For more information on Elluminate, see the Knowledge Bank Elluminate site or contact:

Tamara Carpenter
Senior Project Officer
Knowledge Bank Online Events
Innovation and Next Practice Division
Office for Policy, Research and Innovation
Department of Education and Early Childhood Development

Ph. 03 9637 3010

If you do use Elluminate, please leave a comment to let everyone know what you think of it and how you used it in your school.

Thanks to Tamara for her assistance.