I don’t have a ton of time to write tonight, but I couldn’t let the day go by without mourning—at least temporarily—the loss of the Google Wonder Wheel.
A phenomenal tool for helping student researchers to break broad topics into more manageable subcategories, the Wonder Wheel is one of the few actual product-service-branded tools that I plug hard with teachers.
But it’s also a tool that Google doesn’t seem to love very much.
In fact, in just the twelve months since I wrote my tech book, Google has taken the Wonder Wheel down three different times—including earlier this week.
Now, I’m going to keep my digital fingers crossed that they come to their senses and return the Wonder Wheel soon—but in the meantime, I wanted to introduce you to a tool that I think might be equally helpful to students in the early stages of research projects.
Called the Wiki Summarizer, this tool automatically generates outlines from Wikipedia articles on any topic. The result—much like the result of a Wonder Wheel search—-is a condensed list of important subtopics connected to a broader concept.
Now, whether Google recognizes it or not, that’s a HUGELY valuable service for kids who are often researching topics that are new to them and who can struggle to break broader concepts into smaller, manageable chunks worth exploring.
The list generated by Wiki Summarizer can become an instant guide for student researchers.
In the example shared above, a student studying volcanoes now knows—with nothing more than a few simple clicks—that studying volcanoes includes studying magma, lava, gasses, and ash. They also know that tectonic plates are somehow connected to the study of volcanoes.
Each of those topics can be starting points for research papers.
Perhaps just as valuable, Wiki Summarizer generates a bulleted list of important facts for each of the subtopics connected to any broader concept.
Can you see how useful that is for student researchers studying topics that they know nothing about? With little real effort, they can quickly and easily be introduced to the key subtopics connected to any broader concept.
While Wiki Summarizer should never replace more significant research using multiple sources, it is certainly a tool that student researchers can use early in their study of new topics and concepts.
At least until the Wonder Wheel returns!
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