Friday 27 April 2012

Wily Widgets

Breaking through the wall with widgets

In many schools IT departments control the software available and the tools that users may add to browsers. An excellent way to point to students to resources that can often otherwise be added as toolbar extras, is to provide them with a range of widgets. Widgets expose both students and staff to tools they may not regularly use, or indeed they be unaware of their existence.

Two categories of widgets that I find particularly useful are Search and Dictionary widgets. Many of these come in a variety of colours, shapes and sizes. Once you have selected the look you want, simply copy the code and paste into your website.

Database widgets are prolific and depending on which ones your school subscribes to, can also be easily adapted for your needs.


The newest widget in the pack is an Instagrok widget.

Many of these other favourite search tools are also embedded liberally throughout our LibGuides site.

Sweet Search is one of the most useful widgets directing users to sites that are all suitable for students. The widgets are available in a variety of sizes along with the Sweet Search4Me widget suitable for early learners.

The text and colours on the Duck Duck Go search box can be edited to suit your preferences.
DuckDuckGo logo
DuckDuckGo is a search engine that protects privacy and has a wide range of features.

Google Books and Google Scholar search boxes focus attention on specific search functions. By the Terms of Service, the HTML code cannot be altered in these search boxes, but if you use LibGuides you are able to set a default search term in the boxes so that students see the most appropriate search term for the context. An example of such a default search can be seen on our Pyschology guide.

Google Books

Google Scholar

Of course no reference to search boxes would be complete without Wolfram Alpha who provide a wonderful range of customised widgets in addition to basic search boxes.

Blekko also has a range of useful tools including this embeddable searchbox.

Trove searches Australian content


Dictionary widgets are very useful for students working in situations where there are no inbuilt define functions.

This widget provides access to Oxford Dictionaries

If you have a preference for Cambridge there is a Google widget or a HTML version of this widget.

Merriam-Webster have a variety of 13 different search boxes for their dictionaries and thesauri such as the Learner's Dictionary below, suitable for younger students.

These are just a few of the many widgets available that can assist your users. Do you have favourite search and dictionary widgets that I have missed?

Sunday 22 April 2012

100 years of learning

This week I had the wonderful opportunity to celebrate my mother's 100th birthday with her and each of my six siblings, their partners and my husband. It was a special family occasion and a tribute to her in so many ways. The 15 of us lunched in a lounge room in the small country hospital in South Australia where she has been resident for the last seven and a half years. 
Here's a woman who left school at the end of primary school as there was no money for her to continue into secondary years so she needed to go out to work. She still had a burning desire to learn and never ceased to do so. She and my father struggled through a tough farm existence but she always valued 'learning' of any sort and encouraged us to always try and do our best.
One of her favourite mottos has been "if a job is worth doing then its worth doing well." This applied equally to her care of family, attitude to tasks and of course, learning.

Thank you Mum for so much, for your positive outlook on life and for the opportunities you provided for me which required great sacrifices made by both you and Dad.

Today many of her 27 grandchildren and 29 great grandchildren will call to see her. May they and all of us open our minds to the possibilities and enrichment that continual learning provides.

Tuesday 10 April 2012

Lending a hand

photo credit: Meredith_Farmer via photopin cc
It is always a privilege to be asked to present a session for other teachers. Last Thursday I had the opportunity to provide some training and guidance for library staff at another school. Their particular need for LibGuides training played to my expertise and I was delighted to lend a helping hand.
We have been using the LibGuides platform for a library web presence for 12 months now and are most impressed with functionality, flexibility and back end support. The presence of a strong community of librarians from around the world adds to its usefulness as resources are shared freely for others to use.
The statistics clearly show our library site is being well used with our Mathematics guide alone showing more than 1500 viewings this year.

Some guidelines to consider for your library if you are interested in using LibGuides are listed in an earlier post here

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