After looking around for some more visual search engines, I decided to have a play with instaGrok. The first thing to note is that it does not work with Internet explorer so I used Google Chrome to do my searching (or you can also use Mozilla Firefox).
InstaGrok is designed to help learners find educational content.
It is not simply an alternative to others I have used in the past ie. Eyeplorer or Google’s old Wonder Wheel. It is a fresh approach which is very easy to navigate and offers so much more than a simple web of suggested search terms.
I tried searching “Tasmanian tiger” which was one of the research topics our year 8 students were given recently.
instaGrok searched this topic and quickly collected an assortment of useful and related content that is categorized and displayed under lists of facts on the “Tasmanian tiger”. The screen is split into two main areas. On the left side of the screen you had a cloud showing the concept/keywords you initially entered into your search with other related terms surrounding it. Students often need help to refine their searches and this offers a visual way to see some of the topics that relate to the initial search. If you double-click on one of the related topics it offers another array of options but you original search also stays on the screen.
On the right side of the screen, under the heading “Key facts”, there were links to different forms of information on that topic. These change as you refine the search. Here you have the more usual type of information.
They options include:
- key facts (great for students to get started on a topic new to them)
- quizzes on the topic and
- concept cloud at the bottom for another way to refine the search
Decide what type of resource you want and open, for instance video or photo, and look in this area you get little thumbnails that are linked to their site. You can choose “more” and the screen changes to show the thumbnails to the right of the sites they come from and, on the left of this screen, there is a long list of themes and concepts you can “tick” to refine your search again.
You don’t need to join to use the search but if you do you have some extra options. When you find materials that are useful for your research, you can pin them or add them to your instaGrok journal. You can add notes to the links in your journal as well. The journal can be emailled or printed
When logging in for the first time you have three options. You select whether you’re a going to be a regular user (General), teacher or student. Teachers can create a class code for their class (case-sensitive) and students can then enter that teacher’s code. Using this option allows teachers to check student’ journals and their searching history. This would help teachers to develop a better understand the researching capabilities of their students and assist them to help students improve with the most appropriate skills tips.
In short the things that I thought instaGrok offers students (and teachers):
- It is easy to visualize concepts and their relationships
- The key facts are simple and help users to gain basic information about their topic
- Offers an easy way to explore websites,videos,images
- Users can easily select the difficulty level of concepts/materials
- Allows users to organize materials and links into an account
- Students can test their knowledge with the auto-generated quizzes it creates