Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Don't search it - Grok it!

First off, five points to anyone who can tell me - without looking it up - what "Grokking" is from.  Yes, if you know this, you're something of a geek.  But, that's ok.  Geek is Chic!

OK, on to the post of the week.  Did you ever use that cool search wheel thing that Google once offered? Well, there's a pretty cool version of it, revived by another company:

This is one cool search tool - not only does it create a map of the concept a student is searching for - sort of a thesaurus of related terms that they can click on - but it also gives them access to a variety of source materials right on the screen, which they can save... and so much more.

This video does a nice job of explaining the basics:

So, in a nut shell, here's what it does.  When a student goes here to conduct research, they are given a much more informative panel of information than they'd get on Google.  Consider this example, where I searched for "feudalism":

In the main window, I have a word web.  This shows me the main term, and words closely associated with it.  To the right of the wheel, there's a side bar with a TON of information:

 There's a list of key facts, each of which can be expanded - giving full information from a specific website, which is linked.

You can click for additional websites, specific videos, and specific images on the green menu bars below the facts.

Concerned about the complexity of some of this information?  Just slide the little lever at the top of the screen!  This allows a student to set the difficulty level of the search - from elementary (the chalk board) to advanced (the Eistein).  This allows the material to be differentiated, helping each student challenge themselves appropriately.

So, what do you do with the information you find?  One nifty feature here is the little green button next to each piece of information, video, or image.  This little push-pin attaches the information to the word web, as you can see below:

Here, I clicked on a couple facts, a picture, and a video - each is now attached to the key term that was the focus on the search.

It's a nice visual... but, even better, the selected information also appears in the student's journal, right on the site:

Here, all the information is sorted by type and given a link to the original source - where the student can delve into deeper information and create a full citation for the source (or paste the link into Easybib, and then track from there - but I digress).

These notes and images can be edited, exported, and saved for use in a paper...

And, if you're looking to dig deeper, you can click "more" next to those green bars - for example, if I click for "more" websites, I get this:

This page organizes the information I can find - each website is in its own box, where I can see the concepts it covers, along with a brief preview.  I can see its complexity as well - that's the little cap and diploma icon tells me that these three sites are pretty advanced.
 If I like any of them, I can use the green button to pin them to my journal; if I reject any of them, I can just click the little trash can and remove it from the page.

Some of the real benefits come when you register as a teacher:  Once you do this, you can create a class code, which your students will use when they go onto InstaGrok.  With this class code, you are able to check your students' progress - sites they have visited, notes they've put in their journals, etc., making it a lot easier to help each child reach their potential.

This video does a nice job of explaining the benefits of using InstaGrok as a teacher - give it a look; the visual does a better job of doing this site some justice:

This site has some great potential - for differentiating materials during research, and for helping track what students do find.  Give it a shot - play around with it, and see for yourself!

Until next week,

Derek & Jeremy

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