Kwercus – primary school social network

Last week I saw a tweet about Kwercus, a secure social networking site for schools. I did a search to find out some more, but there wasn’t a whole lot out there. So I sent out a question on Twitter, hoping that someone who knew a bit more would provide a link to more info, but no response.

As my tweets are displayed on my blogs, I’ve noticed over the weekend that others are interested in finding out about Kwercus as I’ve been receiving hits from others also searching for more info. So today I’ve done a little bit more work and this is what I’ve found.

There was an article on BBC Radio 1’s Newsbeat:

Kwercus will be a secure system, based on the internet, but managed by teachers.

The company behind it hopes the site will be used as a learning resource for pupils, parents, and staff, as well as somewhere for young people to have fun.

Kwercus is due to launch in 2010.

The company behind the software is imJack PLC and they are working with the child psychologist, Professor Tanya Byron who is acting as an advisor. I’ve found the web site relating to Kwercus, though there doesn’t seem to be all that much information available on there at the moment.

But there is a video on Vimeo that went up three days ago from the time I’m writing this. It’s an hour long panel session that includes Prof Tanya Byron and also a student. There is some interesting discussion about the current use of social networking amongst children, who are below the minimum age required for registration under their terms and conditions. Also, how children are using these networks, and why. In addition, there is some talk about the benefits of using social networking with children within schools. There is also some talk about online bullying, and how this needs to be address, along with development of digital lieracy.

There are a few images around about what the environment looks like:


Twitter, Backchannel & Presenting

I have a philosophy, “Don’t reinvent the wheel, find the best resources then link and reference instead.” And I’ve just come across one.

I’m interested in using the backchannel within educational presentations and have written and vlogged about the concept here:

The Microblog Backchannel

The Twitter Experiment – Bringing Twitter to the Classroom at UT Dallas

Backchannel or Badchannel?

Well, Olivia Mitchell has written an excellent resource detailing the use of the backchannel and how to manage it as a presenter. She’s written about it in a post, and I’m including a link to the pdf ebook, “How to present with Twitter (and other backchannels)”.



eyePlorer – graphical knowledge engine

eyePlorer is an interesting alternative to the usual approach taken by many when looking for information. Instead of using a search engine to produce a series of unrelated links; eyePlorer is a ‘knowledge engine’ designed to use semantic associations and provide a richer experience of interconnected knowledge. This would seem to have useful applications for education throughout the subject disciplines. And as a student it is useful when studying a topic, or writing an essay, to check that you have covered relevant and related areas to demonstrate a fuller understanding; eyePlorer would therefore seem to be a useful way to explore a topic.

The returned content from a topic search is displayed in an elegant graphical interface. There are plenty of features to get your head around with the eyePlorer interface, most or which are quite intuitive, and I’m pretty sure I won’t cover them all, but it’s worth taking a look at this video:

The circular graphic display is segmented into separate topic areas, with information falling into each of the categories. Alongside each information term or phrase is a dot, and the size of these dots indicates whether the information is well known (larger dots) or more obscure information (smaller dots). You can hover over each term/phrase and after a couple of seconds a knowledge box opens providing you with sourced information. Click on the information in the knowledge box and the page with the source of the information opens up within eyePlorer. Note: to get back to your eyePlorer graph, click the Back button at the top centre of the eyePlorer screen.

Across the top of the knowledge box are four tabs. The tab you’re currently in is the eyePlorer facts. The other three are Websearch (powered by Bing), Images (also powered by Bing), and Twitter.

If you want to investigate any of the items (terms/phrases) in your existing eyePlorer graph, you simply drag the item into a blank search term box or onto the plus (+) below the search term. This creates a new graph associating the two terms, to eliminate the original term from this joint search, click the close down x next to the term. You can move between your graphs using the back < and forward > links just at the bottom left and right (respectively) of your graph.

Here is a video giving more detail. Note: some of the interface shown on the video is different to what you might see, I think there must have been software updates to the interface since the video was produced.

On the right of the + is a globe-like icon; dragging a term/phrase onto this performs a Google search for the term. Note: you have to be quite quick doing the dragging or the knowledge box opens before you get there, if this happens just click the globe icon at the bottom of the knowledge box.

When you register for a free account you get to fully use the second element of eyePlorer, the notepad. Whilst you can use the notepad without having an account, you can’t save any of this information, so it is worth registering. To add things to the notepad you simply drag them across from the graphical display.

Why should the use of eyePlorer knowledge engine be significant to you as an end user?

Well, quoting from the Vionto (the designers of the underlying software) site:

What’s in for our users:

  • Associate and aggregate information from different web sites or other content sources
  • Work with a user-friendly, interactive graphical interface
  • Generate content overviews
  • Find, process and store knowledge within a single user interface
  • Gain interesting and unexpected stimuli
  • Retrieve facts and text results (rather than just lists of links)

Vionto Knowledge Machines

There are some quirks to using eyePlorer, and the available information resources might be a little limited for some users currently, but additional sites and resources will I believe continue to be added. I also believe the interface will continue to be improved. I think the concept is a good one and very useful, tapping into a more visual approach for knowledge retrieval, and the interlinking of knowledge – more a search for something and other related and associated content.

Another plus with eyePlorer is that you can add a spot of html into your website to include a dynamic link to for a particular search term.

Example term : Web search engine

I think eyePlorer is very much worth trying. And if it doesn’t quite meet your requirements now, possibly try it again in a few months.

JISC Web 2.0 videos

JISC is funded by the UK HE and FE funding bodies to provide world-class leadership in the innovative use of ICT to support education and research.

Here are some useful videos provided by JISC about Web 2.0 and social media:

Social Media

Microblogging (Twitter)

Collaborative Document Writing


Tom Whitby talks Twitter, PLN, and social media in teaching

I find this video today. It’s only 2min 30sec long and was filmed at a conference. It’s a very quick interview with Tom Whitby (@tomwhitby) where he talks about the use of Twitter by the teaching community and how this is an element of a personal learning network (PLN). He then goes on to explain the importance of social media for students who are learning for an ever changing world.

Experiment and discussion

I’ve recently written a couple of blog post that are receive a bit of attention, the first was about the changing role of education and the second about Nurphy a new online service for conversations. I’ve decided to see if I can combine then by asking question about one on the other and seeing what happens. It’s a bit of an experiment really.

So, here goes. I’ve posted the following up as a conversation that anyone can join, once registered with Nurphy. Will people be willing to sign up for an untested service at this early stage? I’ll find out. The conversation starts here.

Whatever, I’d still like people’s opinions about the following.

Is the rise of the Professional Amateur Pro-Am, the increase in open educational resources (OER), personal learning environments (PLE), and greater significance of informal learning and research going to lead to a move away from an emphasis on institutional, formal learning?

As people are able to continually express their skills, abilities and achievements via social media, will formalized accreditation, with potentially out-dated assessment systems, be less relevant?

Or are formal learning and research institutions able to adapt quickly enough to the new requirements of society?

Nurphy – it’s about conversations

Something called Nurphy has just come out, and it’s an interesting concept that I can see potentially gaining a position for itself. The easiest way to describe it is a cross between email and microblogging (Twitter) and a forum. Effectively you can have a public conversation that can be carried out using a Nurphy account or via email. This conversation, if you’ve set it to public, has a unique URL and can therefore be viewed from anywhere. And if you’ve allowed it, anyone can contribute to the conversation. This would seem to fulfill a conversation need that falls between Twitter and via email. I’ll investigate it for a while.

Here is a conversation I set up to create some screen shots to demonstrate the process.

1. Click the Start a Conversation button


As I hadn’t got any contacts set up at this stage, I typed in an email address and then my comment. You aren’t limited to 140 characters, but equally with this service I don’t think you want to go too big with what you’re writing; it is supposed to be a conversation after all.

2. Your list of Conversations now has that particular one there.


It has been allocated a unique code that with make up its unique URL which can now be publicized.

3. The email address I included in the conversation now receives an email


which upon opening look like:


So for someone who isn’t on Nurphy they are able to participate via email. they receive your comments and can respond by replying to the email and typing beteen the lines delimited by [===>  <===].

In this example:


4. From my Nurphy account I can now see the emailed response appear in the conversation:


And I can respond to continue the conversation.


At any time you can use the tabs to see who the participant in a conversation are:


And you have the option of closing off a public conversation to make it exclusive (or private), via the Options tab:


In addition, you can embed some code that provides a button in your site to allow people to start a conversation with you via Nurphy.

Start a conversation with Markuos

If you want to see more of what the potential of Nurphy is, then take a look at the video:

Oh, and there’s an iPhone / iPod Touch interface available.