Lately I find myself experimenting with lots of different Firefox extensions and thinking about the browser itself as a learning environment. The number of interesting ways that you can extend the platform is just staggering. When you add to that the fact that Firefox is cross-platform and that you can now run it off a USB key drive, it starts to look more and more to me like a core piece of e-Learning technology. Without even getting into the interesting astand-alone applications built on top of the Firefox technology platform, e.g., eXe or Flock, I thought it might be useful to list a small handful of extensions that have applications in teaching and learning contexts. Feel free to add your favorites to the list.If you like to have dictionary definitions handy, try Inline Google Definitions. Right-click on a highlighted word on any web page and select “Inline Definitions” from the contextual menu, and you get a nice AJAX pop-up with the results of a “define:” Google search. If you prefer a more comprehensive reference tool, try Hyperwords. It gives you a whole bunch of options for a selected word or phrase, including definition look-ups on a variety of refence sites, search on a variety of search engines, mapping a location on a variety of map engines, and many other options. Very slick.
There are actually a whole bunch of extensions like these, which are designed to help people milk every last bit of related information out of a page. For example, I like Blogger Web Comments. It lets me see all Blogger posts related to the page that I’m on. Data Analytics is a nifty tool for number crunchers who want to take tabular data out of web pages and run some analysis on it. CoComment lets me see CoComment comments available for a page (obviously). And I’m just scratching the surface here.
Then there are a bunch of blogging tools, including a handful of newsreaders and a couple of blog posting apps. My favorite Firefox-based reader happens to be WizzRSS, though I confess I use a stand-alone reader 99% of the time. In the posting department, Performancing is quite good.
There are many, many of these tools that could be used for teaching and learning online. I’ll just mention two more that tickle my fancy. One is Paragrasp, a simple but clever extension that eases the eyestrain of reading web pages by highlighting one paragraph at a time. The other is CoBrowse, a non-commercial, peer-to-peer co-browsing extension.
What are your favorite e-Learning Firefox extensions? How do you (or would you) use Firefox as part of your online class?