Infomous Clouds

16 May

This is a new tech tool, which I first spotted in use on the Economist.  It has a similar feel to it as the visual thesaurus, in the way that ideas and topics are linked together, and expand out of each other, but has a very different purpose.  Infomous does with information links what the VT does with semantic links.  It’s difficult to accurately describe it here in an essentially static blog, as it is a dynamic process.  Infomous have very kindly given me a beta-testing guest account to play with, but unfortunately, one of the limitations of this blog is that I can’t play with the html directly (at least attempts thus far to embed code etc haven’t met with success).  So we’ll see what else we can do…

Here, for example, is an infomous snapshot of teflgeek content:

As mentioned, it’s difficult to see when it’s static, so if you click here, it’ll open up in a new window for you to play with.  If you click on one of the words, that word becomes the centre of the cloud and shows any and all links / associations to that word.  Also, when you let the mouse hover over the top, you get to see all the stories or posts that are relevant to that word.

This is an interesting way to navigate websites, or for bloggers to add a bit of zing to their blogs, but it becomes more useful when you add additional feeds / websites into the mix.  Here, I’ve taken five EFL blogs and thrown them all together:

Again – click here to interact with the cloud.

The fact that you can specify where the cloud draws it’s sources suggests that this would be quite a useful tool for developing webquests / infoquests.  To get an idea of what could be done, take a look at the hot topics page:  http://www.infomous.com/explore/hot.  A nice way of (initially at least) limiting the sources that learners could draw upon to access the information for a particular project, and also possibly developing learner ability to ascertain relevance of information as they sift through the source material to find what they need.

Downsides:

At the moment, Infomous isn’t freely available.  You can contact them and ask for a guest account – they were nice enough to say yes to me!  Also, I’m hard pushed to think of classroom applications other than aggregating content for webquests.  Though there might be some potential in summary tasks.  Ultimately, it’s not a tool that’s been designed with education in mind, it’s a great tool for websites and blogs and the like and it could be used for classroom stuff, but it’s maybe a bit of a stretch too far.

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