"If we teach today's students as we taught yesterday's, we rob them of tomorrow." --John Dewey

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Get Your Group Grokking

Is there anyone who got through their elementary school years without the frustration of asking a parent or teacher for help spelling a tricky word, only to be told to "look it up"?  While I understand the idea of teaching someone to be resourceful and independent, in some respects determining who would know the answer to your question is being rather resourceful, don't you think?  In any case, sometimes it's nice to be able to get a straight answer from Grandma, instead of a dictionary from Mom.

Searching for information online very often becomes an equally frustrating situation.  We direct our students to a favorite search engine, which in turn shows them other places to search for their answers.  Then, instead of sorting through information, they are sorting through websites, often times skipping the most useful sites because it's simply too arduous of a chore to read a page dense with text to find the one or two facts that would be useful.  Don't get me wrong--searching and reading for details are wonderful, necessary skills, no doubt.  They're just not always the skills we're trying to teach or practice in a particular lesson.  Sometimes we shop through every aisle of the store to see what looks good, and sometimes we simply need to grab the milk and get out.

When you need your students to quickly gather facts for a lesson or project, try directing them to instaGrok.com.  Using instaGrok to find information will have your students spending less time searching, and more time learning.  And, it offers some pretty handy tools for both you and your students to help keep everyone on track and well organized.  Let's take a look.

Enter your search term and the program will immediately begin "grokking."  What you'll get when the grokking is done is a mind-map of topics related to your search term, and lists of facts, websites, videos and images to help you fill in the blanks.  (Be sure to click on More in any category to see LOTS more!)  If you take a few minutes to create a teacher account at the site, your students can register as members of your class, and have access to a handy journal where they can pin the facts and images they need, as well as a list of websites they've visited so they can revisit if necessary.  The website will also maintain a history of searches so your students can be working on their Social Studies project one period, their Science project the next, and have the ability to quickly and easily switch between the two at the same site.  Not sure that little Javier in the back row is still on task?  Check your My Class tab and see exactly what each student in your class has been doing, and where they've been searching.  Take a look at their journal entries, and even make notes/comments for each student to see.

As if all of that isn't enough, instaGrok also allows the user to adjust the difficulty level (grade school, high school or college level) with a simple "flip of a switch," and will generate appropriately leveled multiple-choice quiz questions based on the user's research activity.

This website will put an unbelievable amount of information at the fingertips of your students in a very short amount of time.  Be sure to direct your students to instGrok.com the next time you want them to spend their time grokking instead of searching.  You'll be very glad you did.

BTW:  Just because this was posted on April Fool's Day, please don't assume that talk of "grokking" is a lame attempt at pulling your leg.  Check the dictionary, really, and see if you can begin to grok the meaning of the word grokking.


  1. Can't wait to try this out with my students. This might be just the right tool for my 4th graders. It is sometimes too much to sift through Google and other search engines.

    Thanks for sharing!

  2. Thanks for your feedback, Nancy. I shared your comment with my 4th grade class, and asked if they had any words of wisdom to share with your students. The majority mentioned that they think your students will find instGrok easy to use, and maybe even fun. A couple of students said they learned a lot (imagine that!) using the site, and one even said that he liked the fact that he could customize the difficulty level of the search results.

    From me and my 4th graders to you and yours, happy grokking!