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Saturday, March 31, 2007

Yahoo! Teachers and the Yahoo! Gobbler

In my last post I said that I was putting my head down to work on something at Yahoo! that I believe strongly in. Strongly enough to set aside my evangelism role and focus on a single product within Yahoo!

I am glad to say that I can now freely, publicly talk about what I am now doing at Yahoo!

On Thursday, at the National Science Teachers Association in St. Louis, we announced that a new site, Yahoo! Teachers will go live at the start of the summer.

Before I explain what it is and why I think it's cool, let me go back a little in time and talk about this scrappy team within Yahoo! that wanted to "hack the educational system."

Last summer we held a Yahoo! Teachers of Merit camp on our campus in Sunnyvale. We invited about 60-70 teachers to come spend 7 or 8 days with us. The first couple of days was about how teachers could take advantage of the web and of course we talked about things like delicious and flickr as well as Yahoo! Groups. But beyond that we gave them some new tools to gather, organize and share information with teachers around the world.

One of the key tools was the Gobbler, an idea conceived by Karon Weber (formerly of Pixar) and others. Just two weeks before the camp and one week after I created the carousel the team did not have the gobbler built or even started. I was simply an occasional consultant on the team (in my role as evangelist). Prodded by Samantha Tripodi (lead designer), I took the next 3 days to try to bring the Gobbler to life. Fortunately I was able to do so. And by the time of camp I had a good enough version of the gobbler to unleash on the teachers.

I recall the first time the teachers saw the gobbler in action. I was sitting in front of the room and I heard a room full of teachers gasp (literally). They were surprised you could do something like this. They immediately got it. And saw how it would help them gather knowledge from the web and share with other teachers around the world.

Ok, so what is it?

The gobbler is simply a widget that you can popup on any web page and just grab text, images and links from the page and drag and drop them into your Y!Teachers projects. (You can also bookmark the site as well).

Its a little like Google Notebook, bluemark, clipmarks and other clipping services but it is a little unique. First, you can simply tear things off the page with drag and drop. Second, when you drop things from the page into the gobbler you are dropping them directly into your projects within Yahoo! Teachers. They get immediately saved there. Third, the assets you drop are thus brushed with meta data from the project itself (like grade level, subject, state standards). Fourth, the projects (and the assets) are then shared with any teacher anywhere in the world that is part of Yahoo! Teachers.

The combination of gather (gobbler), organize (projects) and share (teacher network) creates a powerful combination.

As always seeing it is the best way to understand it (sorry the sound is a little quiet... will repost later with better sound).

This week at the NSTA, we showed Yahoo! Teachers and the gobbler to hundreds and hundreds of teachers. The response was overwhelmingly enthusiastic about both Y! Teachers and especially the gobbler.

I am glad that almost 10 months after creating the gobbler I can finally talk about it :-)

And in a just a short amount of time teachers will be able to use these tools to make their job a little easier.

If you or someone you know is a teacher, head over to Y! Teachers and sign up for the teacher network... we'll notify you when the full site goes live.

Catch photos on flickr: