The past few weeks I have been reviewing sites, services and apps that high school teachers would be able to use for writing assignments. As part of our Title V Writing Initiative grant at PCCC, this summer we are running sveral seminars for area high schol teachers in different disciplines. All of those that have applied have expressed interest in using technology to teach writing, but have also said that they are limited not only by budgets but by the school or district blocking access to sites and applications.
In the "Classroom" category of this blog you'll find these most recent posts on lesson-oriented tools. The last half-dozen have been things out of Google Labs. That virtual workshop of projects offers services that are "beta," but you can use them, and some projects (like Gmail) remain there for years before they actually get officially released or dropped.
Today it is Google Sets. Suggest two or three similar items and Sets attempts to predict other items in the set. I think it's a nice tool for creating comparisons or suggesting a variety of subjects. I can see it working as a prewriting activity for brainstorming and idea generation whether you are looking for a research topic or something for an idea for a poem.
It's still a work in progress, but that might halp with the more creative idea generating. I put in memorial, soldier, peace, and war and it suggested army, statue, tour, and action which all make a kind of sense. But it also also indie, travel, sky, fall, autumn, ghost and pinkfloyd which leads me in an entirely other direction.
Throw this tool into the mix with Image Swirl, Fast Flip and the News Timeline and I think you will get some interesting brainstorming sessions. Thankfully, everything generated in these search results yields a link so that with some more (fairly painless) information literacy work (preferential term to research with some classes), a student might make a connection between my search terms and Pink Floyd such as their song "The Dogs of War."