Friday, May 7, 2010

Give Swirrl a Whirl

If you have visited this blog lately, you know that my latest social media passion is something that I have named M-Hub. This stems from recent experiences with personal learning networks and Challenge Based Learning.

I aspire to create an online vehicle that would help students learn how to network. It would be a database of adult "experts" within the school community (parents, teachers, alumnae) which students could access for research on projects, careers, college, etc. M-Hub could help give them more autonomy over their own learning and lead them to authentic outcomes. And as Bill Roberts recently suggested to me, if set up properly, M-Hub "may be useful to put together 'topic pages' so that students can see the advice provided to others with similar questions."

Some very dynamic students, staff, and alumnae have responded with enthusiasm to the project, and we have moved forward at a faster pace than I ever imagined we might. One of our first quests has been to find a "platform" for the knowledge hub.

I quickly found out that "cloud" databases are few and far between. The wikis with which I was familiar were not helpful. There are plenty of cloud apps for word processing, spread sheets, and even slides, but databases are rare and most that might fit M-Hub's needs are prohibitively expensive.

But then I found Swirrl. It has many of the features that we are looking for:

*Ease of use
*Unlimited Users
*Search and Tags
*permission control
*revision history.

Swirrl is wiki designed as a database. Essentially each "page" of the wiki can store information, uploads, tags. And it's all highly searchable. What's more, the free version is rather generous-- 1000 pages and 100 mb of upload storage. I'm confident that teachers might find this useful for classroom or personal use.

I'm not sure that M-Hub will be using Swirrl, as our needs go beyond the "free" model, but I wanted to share this resource with my readers and also thank the Roberts brothers for helping me become acquainted with Swirrl and troubleshoot some of M-Hub's technical challenge.

Check it out and give Swirrl a Whirl!

Screen Shot of Swirrl home page

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