The adventures of a fourth grade teacher in East Central Illinois.

InstaGrok

While I was attending The Feast, a technology conference held in Bloomington, Illinois, this summer, I learned about a lot of neat web- and mobile-based learning tools. I’ve been making an effort to use them in my classroom this year and see how well they work at a fourth grade level. (Many of the resources were presented by high school teachers, so I was interested to know if they could be utilised at the lower levels.) I gave a brief overview of all of them on a post this summer, but as I introduce specific sites to my class, I will be writing up blog posts about them.

One thing I want to point out is that I am receiving absolutely no remuneration for this. In fact, that the companies who have developed these tools probably don’t even know that I exist, let alone my blog. I will be sharing the posts with them via Twitter, but I don’t expect any specific notice. (Of course, if they do share my post with others, I won’t be upset. I am very proud of the work my fourth graders accomplish and hope that more people will read my blog to celebrate their successes!) I say this because I don’t want anyone to think that I was asked to write this post or that I am being paid to do so. I am writing the post because it was something I did with my class and it worked well. That is all.

The tool I introduced today is a study aid called InstaGrok. There is a paid subscription version of it that has helpful features such as the ability to create assignments, a teacher dashboard, and specialised customer support. However, I have only used the free version so far and it has been satisfactory. That isn’t to say that I am opposed to the paid account, though; only that I am quite pleased with what can be done with the free version.

So, what can InstaGrok do for you? Let me share their overview video, first:

By using InstaGrok, students are able to find relevant information that supports their learning. The journal feature lets them record what they have shared and the quiz feature tests their knowledge. Students can email their journals to me, which gives me quick and ready access to the evidence of their learning. It isn’t a perfect too, of course; there are limitations to anything, but I love the ease of use and the way it provides students with key definitions, websites, videos, images, and more.

We tried it out today with the iPads and Nook tablets in my classroom. I don’t have enough devices for everyone to have their own (yet), but students were able to work in groups of three to learn more about animal adaptations. This goes along with our science unit on the ecology of the Great Lakes and the students’ research projects on different Great Lakes species. We will be using InstaGrok more in the future as students become more familiar with the ways they can use this tool. It was great seeing students engaged in learning and research, exploring the features, and discussing concepts with one another. It is definitely a tool that I would encourage all teachers to put in their collection to help foster digital literacy and research skills!

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