Friday, October 12, 2007

This one blew my socks off! What a tool!

Okay maybe I am behind the times but if you have never played with TouchGraph you have to give it a try. My technology coordinator just stumbled on it this afternoon and we have spent the last 30 minutes playing with this tool. The possibilities are limitless but even more to the point it seems to be a POWERFUL tool to help teachers uncover resources and to allow older students to find information and discover the way networks interact. One of my concerns as an administrator has always been supporting the teachers and finding ways of opening up to them all of the resources that are available for their curricular content. One of the stumbling blocks is the vast number of hits you get with a standard Google search and the time consuming activity of refining searches for each component of you lesson. Enter TouchGraph which provides a visual representation of resources networked around topics or URLs.

You absolutely have to try it to understand but the concept is straight forward. You create a visual network which allows you to see related concepts and a whole variety of resources in an incredibly easy to navigate interface. The visual representation is much easier to work with than pages and pages of hits from a google search and it allows you to move into the deep layers very quickly. So for example if you put in "California history" or "Sahara Desert" the program generates a graphic map of the network around these topics showing a wide variety of subtopics and related links. My test search for Sahara desert immediately revealed a whole host of hubs including images, physical characteristics and subtopics like animals of the desert. The graphic representation is interactive and by clicking on an orbiting sub topic that link then becomes a hub leading you to other linked information. When you click on the "+" in the circle in the upper left corner you will have a link to the URL and further description of that resource. It also worked well with the topic "3rd grade Math".

You also have the ability to manipulate and save a particular graphic representation. I have not been quite as excited about any tool recently as I am about this one. For students this has tremendous potential to deepen their research and assure that they do not just stick with the first things they find on Google. It also helps them to understand the power of the networked information that is now available. For the teachers it puts a whole network of information at their finger tips in a format that will make it infinitely easier for them to access and utilize the resources of this information age. Go and play with this tool and see what you think. Just for fun put in your name and see where that leads. I would love to hear your ideas about how this can be used. it will be the tool of the day for our technology playground this month!

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SuperK said...

That is amazing! I will definitely be spending some time playing with this tool.

Great blog too, in general. I stumbled over it today on a random Google Search.

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