Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Digital Research Part 2: Instagrok

Instagrok is a research tool that allows students to search trusted websites and provides search results in a visual format. Students can view the websites within Instagrok and star the ones that fit their topic. This web tool also provides a work space for students to begin paraphrasing and analyzing the sources they have chosen.

Students do not need an account to begin using Instagrok, but signing in allows a student to save her work from session to session. If a student already has a Google account, the student can sign in using this account. The opening page has a search box where students can enter a question or the topic they are researching. The results are presented in a visual web of terms and ideas related to their topic. Students can click on any part of the web to begin exploring websites which open up within Instagrok.

If a website provides information that the student is looking for, the student can press the green pin to save website for view later. Instagrok also helps students learn how to evaluate a website. Below each webpage is a "Is this site credible?" button. When students click on the button, they are taken to a list of questions provided by Easybib that help them evaluate the website. The teacher can then choose which questions they want their students to answer about a resource.

All of the websites students pin are saved to a journal. Students can then begin paraphrasing the material to help write the report. Since students have signed in using Google or created an account, the information is saved. This allows students to easily access their information later.

Instagrok is great for elementary or middle school students conducting research reports. It can also be used with early high school students who made need extra support researching a topic. Instagrok can be used via the web or can be downloaded as an app for iOS or Android.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Digital Research Part 1: Teacher Guided

At a recent Edcamp, I facilitated a discussion about student research online. At the beginning of the session all of the teachers agreed that students have poor research skills. In addition, teachers felt unsure how to help students develop the research skills they needed. Based on the ensuing discussion at the Edcamp and input from other teachers, I think there are at least three ways to help students effectively conduct research online. In this first post I will focus on teacher guided research strategies.

#1 Link List

Perhaps the most basic method is creating a list of links for students to click through. This could be as simple as creating a list of hyperlinks on a Google document. Or it could be something more visually appealing like creating a Blendspace lesson. This website allows a teacher to drag-and-drop resources onto a grid that can be shared with students via a shortened url. Students can then proceed through the lesson one step at a time. I have included a link to video tutorial on how to use Blendspace.

#2 Google Custom Search

Another option is for a teacher to create a Google Custom Search Engine.  This Google tool creates a unique search page which limits student searches to a list of websites the teacher chooses in advance. An advantage to this choice is that it allows students to practice their searching skills with a small set of web pages that have been vetted by the teacher. I have included an online tutorial below created by Nancy Minicozzi.

The next blog post will describe how to teach students how to do online research using Instagrok.