28 November 2010

Blekko Searching

Will Blekko be a Google killer?

But, what is Blekko?

Blekko is a new search engine, which claims it can reduce the amount of  spam when we search for information online. Blekko has been recently released and from the BBC to the International Herald Tribune to the Financial Times, (just to name a couple of media sources),  everywhere people are talking about Blekko and whether it really delivers its promises.


blekko: how to slash the web from blekko on Vimeo.


Will you be trying out Blekko soon?

Books books books!

In our age of digital literacies, is there still a place for books?

Are books still important and if so, why?

Before books, people read scrolls. Today, in our world of tweets, blogs, wi-fi and texting, I wonder whether books will be completely replaced, just like scrolls were replaced and became history.




What book are you reading right now?

27 November 2010

Tuning In

Have you ever found yourself looking for a new tune or band?

TuneGlue is just the place to look for relationships between musical bands, helping you to discover new music. All you need to do is type in the name of a band, click on the central wheel, and TuneGlue will help you discover relationships between different groups in a connected-based web. In the example above, I began by typing in R.E.M. and let the connections expand. 

Musicovery is a similar tool which allows you to look for music online when you are at your screen working.  You can use Musicovery as an  interactive web radio station which gives you options according to your mood. You can select from Dark, Energetic, Positive or Calm. It also offers a wide selection of different kinds of music, ranging from jazz to pop, as well as giving you the choice of decade, from the 1950's to today.

Another interesting tool is MixPod. With MixPod you can design your own music playlist by selecting the skin (i.e. format) you prefer, editing the colours,  as well as adding video clips with your favourite music. Then, after saving, your playlist all you need to do is embed it in your blog or social network. You can have several playlists for anytime you want to listen or share something new.

What will you be sharing in your  playlist?




MusicPlaylist
Music Playlist at MixPod.com

The Frog, the Octopus and the Viper

A frog, an octopus and a viper may not seem to make the best of friends but they will certainly help you with parts of speech and verb tenses in English. 

With Word Frog, you can practice vocabulary by matching opposites, synonyms and homonyms. The friendly octopus offers you Word Invasion, where you can practice parts of speech in English. 




The viper, who is never to be outdone, offers you practice with verb tenses. Verb Viper is also a cool way to practice subject/verb agreement. 

From frogs to turtles, Academic Skill Builders offers you different games to practice English grammar, either on your own or with friends. 




If you are interested in heros, then have a look at Marvin, a multimedia and animation platform which will certainly capture your imagination.  Marvin includes use of voice and animation, text and photographs. Awesome!

I would like to thank Susan Bainbridge for sharing this great site. Being a writer, Susan has an interest and deep understanding of literacies. Personally, I believe  our lives become richer  by using these tools and platforms to express ourselves. Digital literacies enhance learning.


And no literacy would be complete without your very own hero. HeroMachine 2.5  allows you to create your own hero, whether male or female and save your character. Explore HeroMachine 2.5 and share your hero with others as well as your hero's adventures!






Digital Play

Have you ever wanted to be James Bond?

Princess Natasha is a digital game where the character is a bit like James Bond, except that she is a female. The game has messages that help you solve problems and hints on how to continue playing. It's a great way to be reading in English while playing a digital game. 

If you enjoyed Princess Natasha, then I would recommend that you have a look at Graham Stanley's latest blog, Digital Play. Graham Stanley and Kyle Mawer explore uses of digital games for English Language learning and you will find up-to-date information on digital toys and games. There is also a section which explains how games help the brain learn, a section for teachers, and a top ten selection of games which help you improve your English language skills. It's an easy site to navigate and offers a  great source of inspiring, on-line games to play and enjoy. 

Two other game sites which you perhaps may like to explore are This is Infinity and Evoke.  I enclose 2 short videos on Evoke which may open your curiosity to find out more about this new online game:



EVOKE trailer (a new online game) from Alchemy on Vimeo.



What is an EVOKE? from Alchemy on Vimeo.


Samorost is an intriguing game created by Jakub Dvorsky. Samorost1 mixes natural and technological concepts and is followed by a sequel, Samorost 2, which is equally fascinating.  The goal is to solve a number of puzzles and brain teasers; once you have solved a puzzle, you may proceed to the next level. 



In Samorost 2, the gnome goes on a quest to save his kidnapped dog and safely return home.

Machinarium is also another game well worth exploring though only the demo is free. If you enjoy the creativity and excellent graphics that these games offer, find out more about Jakub Dvorsky and his design agency at Amanita Design




Are you ready to become the new James Bond of digital online games?

26 November 2010

Smile with Smile Box

Across the world, different kinds of celebrations are being held. Some are special to certain countries, for example Thanksgiving Day in the USA and Canada, while others are more global, such as Advent and later, in the year, Christmas and New Year's Day.  

In the UAE, National Day is celebrated on 2nd December and this year, the UAE will celebrate its 39th year as an independent country. 

From the pearl industry to the oil industry, the UAE has developed in many fields and today offers much more than sparkling seas and saffron dunes. Hence National Day is a wonderful way to celebrate achievements and dreams of the future. 

Whatever day or occasion you may wish to celebrate, why not do so by making a scrapbook? Smile box is a tool which allows you to create great scrapbooks to celebrate national holidays, as well as every other important day in your life - from birthdays to weddings, from holidays to graduation day. All are important moments in your life. You can add images, video clips as well as your own music to your scrapbook.
Here is an example of what you can do with Smile Box:

Click to play this Smilebox scrapbook
Create your own scrapbook - Powered by Smilebox
This free scrapbooking design generated with Smilebox


What will you celebrate in a scrapbook with Smilebox?




Web Feelings and Illusions

Have you ever wondered how the World Wide Web feels?

Jonathan Harris has asked himself that exact question and has designed tools  which search and analyse how people around the world feel at the moment they contribute data to the WWW.  Harris is also interested in stories, especially modern mythology and has developed a site called Universe  where you may explore a wide range of contemporary modern myths. 

According to Harris, " Universe is a system that supports the exploration of personal mythology, allowing each of us to find out own constellations, based on our own interests and curiosities.  Everyone's path through Universe is different, just as everyone's path through life is different." Universe allow you to explore connections, patterns and themes which make up our daily lives.

I include one of Jonathan Harris's talks (from
 Ted Talks) where he makes a presentation on the Web's Secret Stories:



Story telling takes on many forms and formats. From oral story telling to digital stories, today we have the widest range of tools to express our personal and cultural stories. For some people, however, story telling remains in the field of illusions and fiction.

Illusions may be expressed with stories but also visually. And that is what Akiyoshi Kitoaka has collected in his page of Illusions. One of his most talked about illusions is Rotating Snakes.  (If you tend to feel dizzy or sick, please note that there is a warning of "anomalous motion illusion" which is included on Akiyoshi Kitoaka's Illusion Pages. )


I made this short video with Jing, which is a great tool to download for taking screenshots and videos. 

Trend Hunter is another interesting site which collects optical illusions from the world of interior design to street art, displaying how creative optical illusions are applied from furniture items to architecture. And,  if you are interested in how to use  colours and the history of colours, why not have a look at The Colour Experience, which is a virtual colour museum?

If optical illusions do not appeal to you, why not look closely around your world and discover inspiration in your surroundings? The National Geographic offers a wealth of treasures for you to explore. Can you spot the natural illusion in this image below?




Feelings, myths, illusions. All are part of our daily lives. 

What web tools can you use to express stories which surround you? Will you choose a digital story or a visual image? 

1 November 2010

Biodiversity

As the seasons of 2010 quickly and steadily return to winter and to the end of this extraordinary year,  I find myself thinking of the significance of 2010's  celebration of Biodiversity. (here you can find more information and some games related to Biodiversity and the WWF)

2010 was the International Year of Biodiversity and  meetings and conferences are still being held around the world.  All around us, projects, plans and proposals are being made, discussed and implemented in many different fields - from sources of renewable energies to educational projects which may contribute positively to our planet Earth and future generations. 

The UAE, as other countries, has also  been under the spotlight for its carbon footprint, and it too has been making efforts to recycle and reduce its impact on our planet. Heroes of the UAE, for example,  has produced this short video clip which I include here below:



Two other movies which are worth watching, are Home and Earth. Both are beautifully made, focusing  on life and planet Earth. Home is also available in other languages, for example, in  French and in  Arabic.  If you are not sure whether you want to spend your free time watching either of these documentaries, I enclose a short trailer of Home:




In my view, thinking about our planet should not only be on Earth Day. In fact, every day is a chance for us all to contribute in some small way to the  well-being of our surroundings and environment. 

Sometimes we may also want to know more about different species and life on our planet. Encyclopedia of Life is an amazing place to begin exploring. 

If you are pressed for time, why not download Encyclopedia of Life's podcasts  and listen to 5 minute stories on the go? Not only can you listen to podcasts, but also by going to the page For Students, you can learn how to join discussions and contribute to the site itself. 

On the other hand, if you would prefer to discuss environmental issues with your friends and colleagues, or just plan a discussion on a topic - whether the environment or any other - why not use Voxopop?


Voxopop can be used as a discussion board where participants leave a recording of their view or opinion.
It is a cool tool to use for a Talk Group and there is even a section called Voxopop Sandbox. By clicking on the picture (which I include here on the left) you can actually practice creating a talk group before inviting your friends and colleagues to join in the discussion. 



And back to biodiversity. How many species can you find from your home in the world through Encyclopedia of Life?


Home. My home, your home. 

Our home. 

What can you contribute to our home called Earth? How have you celebrated 2010 International Year of Biodiversity? 

How can you continue protecting planet Earth for future generations?