Tuesday Tech Talks

November 18, 2014


Say you want to know the most poisonous snake in the world, the inventor of toilet paper, or the year Cleopatra died, what do you do? Google it, of course, but what if you actually want to learn something? Try instaGrok.

instaGrok is an interactive search engine for learners. It displays the context of any topic as a dynamic, visual web of important concepts and relationships. Students navigate this web based on their particular interests and adjust difficulty level based on their knowledge level. They start with key facts, and then dive deeper into quality educational websites, videos, and images. Students can search with no account, but you can set up a classroom account for a 90 day free trial and gain access to auto-generated quizzes, built-in journals to develop research and synthesis skills, an assignment tool, and tools to track student progress.

Wolfram Alpha

Want to know what, when, where, or how many? Try Wolfram Alpha, a computational knowledge engine. Simply enter a question into the search box and Wolfram Alpha will go off to calculate the answer. Use it to gather information on a general topic, show steps to a math problem, map the population of area, and more.

The educator page includes suggestions for classroom use, including sample lesson plans. Check out this one on The History of Money.

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I love Google as much as the next person, but recently, I have been thinking about its implications on student thinking. Terry Heick's recent te@chthought blog post explores this idea. He says:

  1. Google creates the illusion of accessibility- Answers aren't always within reach, and they shouldn't be.
  2. Google naturally suggests “answers” as stopping points - Let's not stop the thinking just because an answer has been "found."
  3. Being linear, Google obscures the interdependence of information - Information is connected. Think about the difference between Google and instaGrok.

Click here to read the entire blog post. Guess what? There's also a part 2 that further explores the difference between search and inquiry.