I was working with my students today on an online research project and, as per usual, a number of students headed straight to Wikipedia as their main source of information. We followed that up with a small discussion on primary and secondary sources, but it got me thinking about an online tool that I had come across a while back. Wikisummarizer takes Wikipedia articles and uses a formula to analyze an article for key words and phrases and then creates a short summary of the article automatically. There are some really interesting functions related to this site including a visualizer that allows you to piece together your own summary from the sections it displays in the tree. Here is how it works:
- Go to WikiSummarizer and start typing the subject of an article you would like to summarize. As you type, suggestions are added and you can then choose the one you would like and click on ‘Summarize’.
- Your subject will show up in a tree with many branches. Beside the name of each branch is a ‘+’ symbol. Click on this to see that section. You will also notice the keyword in bold.
- In the top-right corner of the tree is the ‘Export to’ buttons including RTF files. Click on this to get a file that can be edited with just about any word processor.
How to use this in the language classroom: Have the students locate a subject that they could summarize and then have them download the RTF file of the summary. Have them compare the summary to the main article (located in a bold link just below the keyword search) and see what is missing or should have been included in the summary. This could give them a framework for them to write their own summary. I have found most of the summaries to be missing pieces or including things that are irrelevant. You could even have the students work on the same topic and you also provide a summary sample at the end for them to compare to their writing.
How do you see this being used? Could this be a useful tool in the language classroom? Please add your thoughts and comments below, send me a Tweet at @nathanghall, or email me using the contact form on this website. Thank you.