Tips and Tricks: Widgets, part II

Last month we gave you a compact introduction to widgets. You said hi, shook hands, made a little small talk about the weather. But we just know that you and widgets are going to get along like gangbusters, once you get to know each other. So we’re taking some time to get you better acquainted.

How you know you need widgets
Maybe you found a really great wiki through one of your colleagues, or from Twitter, or right here on this blog. And while you were admiring that wiki, something caught your eye. Perhaps it was a list of visitors, showing their location on a rotating globe, or a Facebook “like” button. Or possibly you saw an embedded presentation that let you flip through slides without downloading anything or opening any new windows. These were all widgets. They didn’t take any coding or programming or special skills. And they’re out there, on the Web, ready for you to use.

How you find the widgets you need
There are literally thousands of widgets out there that do everything from helping you lose weight to letting you play Space Invaders, so finding the right one can be a bit overwhelming. Here a few simple steps to get you started.

  1. Keep your eyes open. Now that you know what you’re looking for, you can recognize all those cool widgets on wikis, Web sites, and blogs for what they are. A lot of the time, those cools widgets will be branded with the widget’s name (or even a link to the source), so you can easily look them up and add them to your own wikis.
  2. Hunt for Embed codes. Most of the Web 2.0 tools you already use and love can probably be embedded in your wiki. Take a close look at your settings, preferences, and options. Is there something that says, “Share,” or “Embed,” or “Post to your blog”? If so, there’s a good chance that same code will let you add it to your wiki.
  3. Search. Googling “wiki widgets” won’t do you much good — there are simply too many out there. But once you know what you want, you can narrow it down. Try “bookshelf widget,” for example. Or “embed slideshow.” (Just a note: There’s a lot of great stuff out there, but some widgets and widget sites may contain inappropriate content. So search safely.)
  4. Ask. Every really great wiki gets that way because someone puts a lot of effort and care into it. These people are experts, and they are often excited to talk about the work they’ve done. They may be happy to help, or they may be too busy. But it seldom hurts to ask — and to let them know that all their hard work is appreciated.

And now — the good stuff
We wish we could take you straight to exactly the right widget: that one perfect tool that will be the cherry on top of your wiki. But there are just too many projects and too many widgets. And there are new ones every day!

Here are just a few to get you started. We know the Wikispaces community already uses (and loves) these guys:

That’s just a teaser, really. You can find a much, much bigger list at cooltoolsforschools.

In fact, so many of you are collecting and sharing all these fantastic tools that we can’t really keep up. Every month in our roundup post, we try to gather just a few of your lists, libraries, and recommendations.

Good luck!

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One Comment

  1. Posted April 30, 2011 at 10:58 pm | Permalink

    Have been using loads of widgets to bring the wikispaces to life for my D&T students for the past 3 years – another site that breaks down and makes comparisons of different good educational widgets is http://educationalsoftware.wikispaces.com/ by Suzie Vesper – found this invaluable when I first started working with wikispaces.

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