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A new global tool expands “brains,” and PBS offers free digital tools


A new beta tool called Wikibrains is making global waves among innovative students as it encourages out-of-the-box thinking. The online, digital brainstorming platform lets users connect with ideas from around the world on specific topics.

For instance, type in the word “literacy” and the map takes you to multiple topics related to literacy, such as “new literacies,” “Common Core,” and “Unesco Confucius prize for literacy.” After choosing “digital literacy,” the tool then takes you to more ideas specifically on digital literacy, such as the “digital divide.”

Throughout the process, Wikibrains suggests relevant and current articles and videos that go along with the topic—resources chosen by other users around the world interested in the same topic.

Other examples for “digital literacy” include everything from the Wikipedia definition to Cornell University’s digital literacy resources. The company is also working with the Harvard Library to make its online resources available to users.

The mission, according to Wikibrains, is to create an “online brain that will spark creativity and out-of-the-box thinking through collaboration.” Their “larger goal is to promote multi-cultural understanding for an abundant future.”

So far, the brainstorming platform has 100,000 contributions from 10,000 active students since its launch in January 2013. The company is intent on helping students with research assignments, and is currently doing a pilot with Windesheim University of Applied Sciences in the Netherlands, where students are using WikiBrains for a course on digital innovation in education.

“Every topical association is based on what other students have looked at,” said co-founder and CEO, Jishai Evers. “As a result, interesting connections may arise. A search for ‘Middle East,’ he says, can return connections to topics as diverse as falafels and the Yom Kippur War.”

Co-founder Leon Markovitz  explained to edSurge that Wikibrains—currently in beta—wants to create a “dynamic meeting point where creative minds find, share, and collaborate on the topics they care about… Every mind has different perspectives and views, and we leverage it for the collective benefit.” He added that “as more mind maps are added, the platform uses ‘a smart data structure to provide a growing database of semantically linked information and knowledge.’”

(Next page: An example of digital literacy resources)

Here’s an example of one of the video resources under “digital literacy,” published on February 6th, 2013.

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The founder of Chicago’s pioneering Digital Youth Network (DYN) describes how the organization empowers young people with critical digital literacy skills that make them academically and professionally competitive.


Soon, according to the company, Wikibrains hopes users will be able to search and filter by demographics. Evers told EdSurge that “it will be interesting if you can compare the kinds of topical relationships that users in the U.S. and those in the rest of the world create about a particular subject.”

Free access to digital resources

PBS will provide free access to all of its digital education resources. PBS LearningMedia–a partnership of PBS and WGBH Educational Foundation–announced that more than 1 million educators now have registered access to the award-winning digital learning service, which offers more than 30,000 high-quality digital resources to educators.

As part of an ongoing effort to support educators using digital media nationwide, PBS LearningMedia is kicking off “Get Your Tech On” through November 1st to encourage more teachers to use digital technology and resources in their classrooms. Through November 1st, educators can access free resource collections, webinars, professional development, and whitepapers.

“Get Your Tech On” comes at a time when teachers are integrating digital learning into their classrooms more than ever, said PBS LearningMedia.

Earlier this year, a PBS LearningMedia survey of 500 pre-K-12 teachers revealed that nearly half (48 percent) of teachers reported using technology for online lesson plans, and just under half (45 percent) use technology to give students access to web-based educational games or activities. Seven in 10 teachers (69 percent) surveyed said educational technology allows them to “do much more than ever before” for their students.

“By encouraging teachers to get savvy with tech tools, we hope to serve as a partner and guide in providing the knowledge and support educators need to better integrate digital learning into their classrooms,” said Alicia Levi, managing director, PBS LearningMedia, in a statement.

PBS LearningMedia is hosting four free webinars for teachers as part of “Get Your Tech On.” One example is “Plug In: How to Integrate Tablets, Smart Phones, Devices & More,” from Leslie Fisher, K-12 technology expert and director of Fisher Technologies Inc. Fisher will discuss how mobile technology can be successfully integrated into classrooms by highlighting top apps, success stories, pragmatic tips for getting started, and solutions for tackling technology and infrastructure challenges.

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