Exploring new Wolfram|Alpha Widget Builder

By | July 27, 2010

This is a tool that will probably be very useful in the classroom. Wolfram|Alpha, the powerful computational search engine, has added custom widgets that can be embedded into blogs and websites. This is mainly useful to take the “guess work” out of queries, and allow students to find the information they need faster.

I like to evaluate new tools by diving in. No demo, no reading instructions, just doing what I can with what is there. Sign up for a free account, and give it a spin! Here are some examples of what I was able to do rather quickly:
Density (<3 minutes to create):

I cover density early in my chemistry class. Regardless of how I do it, at some point, students are asked to identify an unknown metal using its density. What if we had them look up metal densities instead of giving them a reference sheet?
Comparing all properties of two substances (<3 minutes to create):

Comparing specific properties of two substances (3 minutes to create): Applications for this are endless. Here’s a quick example: If you don’t want to create a separate widget for every property (5 minutes to create).
Solution Preparation Widget Fail

One of my main uses of Wolfram|Alpha as a lab prep person is solution preparation.  It would be great to have a widget where you could input specific information (“I need ____ mL of a ___ M solution of ____. I haven’t figured it out yet, but I will check out the demo.

Do you think this is a useful tool? If so, what are some possible uses? I hope you give it a try, because it is very easy to make a simple widget.  If you don’t have the time, desire, or patience to make your own, the public gallery is sure to be populated soon with a wide variety of widgets you can use.


4 Comments

Ben Paulson on July 28, 2010 at 8:21 pm.

This is a pretty cool idea! I love Wolfram Alpha but hadn’t seen the widget function. I’l have to check this out as soon as I get more than a few free minutes. My gears are turning thinking for some biology applications for widget development…

-Ben

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Ms. Bethea on July 28, 2010 at 8:25 pm.

I used W|A for epidemiology research when I taught AP Bio. Its a great resource. I’m sure ecological and biochemical applications are endless.

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JimP on August 19, 2010 at 8:10 am.

I am new to your blog, have you done much with letting students use WA on their work? I did this past year in physics and was really happy with what it did for problem solving. I stopped assigning all the simple problems and only assigned tougher multiple step problems, because WA can do all the simple steps the problem breaks down into.

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Ms. Bethea on August 19, 2010 at 10:09 am.

I hope to integrate it more next year. We only used it for one activity last year, mostly to look up the sort of information on these widgets I made. I imagine it will be useful for simple but time-consuming calculations (like molar mass). W|A doesn’t do stoichiometry or reactions.

I would probably want to have a conversation with their math teachers first, as they may have the most problem with W|A’s capabilities.

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