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Trailblazer; a Google Chrome application that visualises students' online research.

Hey there,

Matt from Twingl here. When we joined the Ethos Community, Hazel asked that we share a bit about who we are and what we're working on. So here it is!

At Twingl we believe that technology can make humanity smarter—and we're building the first generation of tools to do exactly that.

A few months ago we entered the Lightning Lab, a startup accelerator based in Wellington. An accelerator is a kind of high-pressured school for early stage companies. Over the course of three months startups are bombarded with mentors and workshops, all well under the pressure to keep developing their product and user base.

The goal is to compress three year's worth learning into three months. For us it meant exploring many markets, with many products. In the process, we discovered a shared passion for education among the team.

Looking around (from the lens of recent school graduates) we were jealous of trend towards student-centred pedagogies. Not to mention the technology many of today's students now have at their disposal—in every class!

And so our first product, Trailblazer, was born. It's a Google Chrome application that visualises the process of online research. Trailblazer creates a map of the sites your students have visited, as well as the search terms they plugged into search engines:

This map helps keep students research organised—and on track. Instead of losing their place among a sea of tabs, students can use the map to reorientate themselves.

This same map is shared with teachers. Now you can see whether Tom is looking beyond Wikipedia. You can understand how Sarah is phrasing her inquiry. You can intervene before Jack submits a report filled with references of questionable credibility. For teachers, Trailblazer provides a window into your students' research process. We hope to see it spark conversations around digital literacy.

To put such claims to the test we're organising a pilot programme for Term 3. We're excited to have commitments from eight New Zealand schools to trial Trailblazer—all at the forefront of eLearning, 1:1, or BYOD programmes. We will be working closely with these schools to brainstorm features and iron out the worst of the kinks.

We're over subscribed for our first pilot, but we're on the hunt for schools to be a part of our second pilot that will start in Term 4. The only requirements are that your students have access to their own computers during your class and that your school uses Google Apps. If you access your school email using Gmail, then chances are you're using Google Apps!

Does this sound like something you're keen to trial, or something that will interest another school you know? Either way, we'd love to hear from you!

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Comment by Matt Kennedy on July 14, 2014 at 15:05

Thanks for those kind words Hazel!

One idea we've had relating to this is a time-lapse feature that replays the creation of your trail. Sometimes it's hard to reflect on what you've produced in retrospect, so something like this might act as a neat prompter.

Spot on! In fact, some of the teachers we've spoken with identified the purple search tiles as something that will assist them in developing students' search skills.

Fantastic—we can't wait to hear from them! We plan on opening up Trailblazer to tertiary students and individuals later in the year.

Comment by Hazel Owen on July 14, 2014 at 10:51

Really like what you are offering with Trailblazer, Matt (and feel it's a great name for the app too!!) I reckon, not only only an organisational level, this tool will be a help for students to keep their place, but also, could play an important part in self-reflection ('Where did I go? Why did I go there? How did I know it was a reliable source'? etc).

In addition, because the teacher / facilitator can see the 'trail' it's a way of mapping a student's thinking. This has the potential of offering a tangible way for teachers and facilitators (in all sectors of education...and quite possibly beyond?) to support students to develop their critical thinking and online research skills.

Awesome! I will keep my eyes peeled for folks to be involved in your second pilot, and hope folks will also jump in who would like to be involved :-)

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