Wiki Summarizer: A Google Wonder Wheel Substitute

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!


Related Radical Reads:

Google’s Reading Level Search Feature

Do Your Students Know How to Search with a Purpose?





8 thoughts on “Wiki Summarizer: A Google Wonder Wheel Substitute

  1. Henry Lewkowicz

    Hi Bill,
    A new capability has been added to WikiSummarizer:
    Wikipedia Visual Knowledge Map
    This new WikiSummarizer feature is meant to resemble the Google Wonder Wheel that you liked so much. Please try it out and let me know what you think.

  2. Andrew Bender

    Hi Bill.
    Regarding the demise of Wonder Wheel…
    I wanted to make sure you were familiar with InstaGrok, the company I just joined. It’s not exactly like Wonder Wheel, but your readers (and their students) might find it useful.
    Technically, it’s a research engine, not a search engine. Users explore graphical concept maps that show how ideas connect. They can also customize the maps (with key facts, links, and images), and soon they’ll be able to share them, too. We aim to change the way people learn and share information.
    If you think this would be interesting to your readers, I’d be happy to share more.
    – Andrew

  3. Miranda K

    Mr. Ferriter,
    I just wanted to thank you for this tip and the many others you’ve unknowingly given me. About a month ago, I read an article of yours from the Feb. ’09 issue of Educational Leadership, “Learning with Blogs and Wikis” for a grad class I’m taking, and it’s literally begun a teaching transformation for me. The use of these tech tools has released a new spark of excitement; I cannot wait to share this enthusiasm (and these tools) with my students.
    Thank you! I look forward to continuing to read your posts (which I now do on the PageFlakes I created, per your directions).
    Many thanks from Michigan,

  4. Bill Ferriter

    No sweat, Henry.
    And thanks for the update on Wiki Summarizer. Your tool is catching my attention because it will really help my students to break big topics down into manageable chunks. Thats super important because it is the skill that student researchers struggle the most with.
    Looking forward to checking out the new features.

  5. Henry Lewkowicz

    Hi Bill,
    Many, many thanks for checking out WikiSummarizer and sharing your thoughts.
    We now added a new tab: “Web Summarizer” to WikiSummarizer. This allows the users to get summaries outside of the English Wikipedia domain.
    We keep the hyperlinks pointing to Wikipedia for all generated keywords. But of course there will be many keywords not defined in Wikipedia.
    The reason for keeping the links is to provide a handy reference in Wikipedia for any keyword a reader wants to explore.
    We hope that this “clickability” on keywords helps with following one’s train of thought from a topic to related topics.
    Any comments and suggestions are greatly appreciated. We want to keep improving the functionality and user experience!
    Cheers from Ottawa,

  6. Brad Goldman

    Mr. Ferriter, I am Brad Goldman, a student in Dr. Strange’s EDM 310 class. It is sad to hear that Google ended Wonder Wheel. It is very cool to hear about the Wiki Summarizer, though. I had never heard of this, but I love looking up stuff so this will be a great tool to me. It looks like a really neat time-saver, thanks for the heads up.

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