First, I want to begin by saying that, obviously, the best place to get good recommendations for any of these categories are people you know and whose judgment you respect.
Secondly, I want to clarify that in this list I’m not going to cover any of the many websites that allow you to see what your “friends” are suggesting, either.
Instead, this “The Best…” list will highlight ways to get recommendations that are (or at least I think they are) based on some kind of computer generated formula. And, in some of them, they might be considered more like a search engine.
I’ve used these applications to identify new resources to assist in my teaching, and I’ve also had students (primarily reluctant-readers from my ninth-grade mainstream class) use one or two of them to find books in which they might be interested.
I’m sure I’m missing some good tools out there, so please feel free to leave suggestions in the Comments section.
Here are my choices for The Best Places To Get Blog, Website, Book, Movie, & Music Recommendations (again, through some kind of computer generated system):
BLOGS & WEBSITES:
Three places are the “related feeds” section in Bloglines, which lists other blogs that are supposed related to the one you’re reading at that time; Feedly’s “recommendations”; and Stumbleupon.
Stumbleupon has recently added the great feature of being able to access and use it entirely online — without having to download anything. The toolbar now is entirely online. You can read more about it at Read Write Web.
Similar Sites is another web tool that deserves to be on this list, and in this section.
YourVersion won a big award at a conference being put on by TechCrunch. After you register, you identify your areas of interest, and YourVersion then seems to do a good job of identifying sites you might be interested in. It also has a lot of other bells and whistles.
BOOKS, MOVIES, & MUSIC:
Here, one obvious tool is Amazon’s “Customers Who Bought This Item..” section that lists the books, movies, and music that other people purchased who also bought the item you’re looking at.
Amaznode is a search tool for Amazon that provides a more visual representation of search results. I’ve found that some of my reluctant readers are more engaged in looking for books using this tool than Amazon’s usual rather bland interface.
Scholastic has recently started the Teacher Book Wizard. It’s a data base of over 50,000 books that’s searchable by keyword, title or author. You can also type in the title of book and indicate if you are looking for similar books at the same, lower, or higher level. I typed in the keyword “immigration” and was able to find quite a few that I know my students would consider “high-interest” ones. I certainly got a better selection that I did when I typed the same word at Amazon’s site. I think this might end up being quite useful to teachers of English Language Learners.
Netflix’s “Enjoyed By Members Who Enjoyed” and “More Like This” features are also useful sources of recommendations.
Movie Lens is a new recommendation/search engine for movies, and it’s by far the most effective tool — for teachers, at least – I’ve found to search for movies. The other typical sites that let you search for movies do it by genre (adventure, romance, etc.). Movie Lens is the first that I’ve found that, in addition to searching by genre, lets you search by what they call “tags.” For example, I searched for “World War II” and got an extensive list of World War II-related movies — a list that I would not have found through Amazon, Netflix, or any other tool on this list.
I’m adding Taste Kid to this list. After typing in the name of an author, a title of a book, a movie, or a recording artist, it will provide you with a number of recommendations. As with some other items on this list, a tool like this would be useful to help students find books they were interested in reading.
Boys Read is a good source of book recommendations for…boys.
The Book Seer is the newest addition to this list. You complete this sentence:
Ambassador, I’ve just finished reading _____________ by ____________ . What should I read next?
After that, you’re shown a split screen with recommendations from Amazon and from “Library Thing.” I could see my mainstream ninth-graders getting a “kick” out of using it and, more importantly, finding some books they might be interested in reading.