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There's a pretty nifty new tool making the rounds: ifttt. "If this, then that." It lets you hook up various Web 2.0 services, automating all sorts of tasks -- sending your Instagram photos to Dropbox, for example. Sending starred items from your Google Reader to Instapaper. Sending Tweets to Evernote. Posting an RSS feed to your Facebook Page. Text messaging you with a weather forecast.

It's like Yahoo Pipes, but with a dead simple interface.

"If this, then that." That's a pretty fundamental concept in programming: conditional thinking. And ifttt spells it out quite clearly for the user: you create tasks, triggered when a certain thing take place. Set up the trigger; choose the resutling action.

Now, I'm always on the look-out for new ways to teach kids programming. I do so for all the obvious reasons: I love tech; I want to share resources; I think programming skills are going to become increasingly important -- for workers, students, citizens. And so on and so forth. It's not so much that kids should all learn C++ (eek!) or JavaScript (well...), as they should learn logic, problem solving, computational thinking -- and programming's a great way to do so. And while not a programming tool per se, ifttt seems like an interesting way to think about this sort of logic too. And as Chad Sansing suggested on Twitter tonight, it might be a great introductory tool to programming.

It also has interesting possibilities for teaching about data -- particularly social media data, obviously -- and its portability. What data can you pull out of your social media accounts. What data can't you?

Regardless of whether you use the tool for instructional purposes, you should check it out. It's pretty cool.

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Audrey Watters


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