Building a Browser for Personalized Learning

This fall, my students will be using Google Chrome as their school browser of choice because it facilitates  personalized learning. Our first concrete technology step, after we open the never ending discussion about Internet safety, will be to install Chrome and a number of extensions.

The Best

My favorite extension for personalizing learning is the Apture extension. I discovered it after noticing the ‘look it up’ feature in the Blio eReader which enables students to right-click and choose from Dictionary, Thesaurus or Wikipedia.  This extension is a more mature and thoughtful version of that concept. Apture allows a student to click on part of a word or phrase and then click on the “Learn More” button that pops up. From there, a student can view quick information in the form of Wikipedia entries, websites, definitions, videos, and images. All of these open up on top of the current page in a small window or large shadowbox… meaning you never leave the original site. This explanation just does not do the extension justice, so I’ll show you a few examples of how it has been used in the past few days in my house.

Example 1: ECHIDNA- I was visiting Emily’s Blog today and read about an echidna in her story. Here in the US, that’s an unfamiliar animal. (Matter of fact, my spell checker keeps flagging the word!) However, it’s the second time in two days that I’ve been faced with the term or image of one and I knew I needed to learn more about the animal. This application made it easy enough that I actually took action on that thought mid-Google Reader stream, and it does the same for our students.

Example 2: CARP- Earlier this week, my son was researching local fishing spots for his personalized learning project. One of the ponds listed types of fish that are stocked, only a few of which were familiar. A quick highlight resulted in some great video footage, many images, and some great additional resource links.

The Rest

Now that I’ve waxed poetic about Apture, I’ll share the others we will be adding over the first week of school. I did notice that our Google Apps for Education accounts have the Chrome store turned off (too bad, Alchemy), but it doesn’t seem to cause a problem with downloading these extensions.

These tools ultimately  help students become more connected, more quickly, in a way that is more meaningful to them personally.

What extensions are you using to encourage a robust personal learning environment? Please help me create a better browser for students to self-direct their learning.