I spent much of my college and post-graduate work learning how to use databases and search tools. As a dual major in English and Spanish, gathering sources and writing essays was a weekly (and sometimes daily) task. On a professional level, I often use the ACSD, NCTE, and ACTFL databases for up-to-date pedagogy and curriculum ideas. I’m also a New York Public Library card holder and have access to a wide variety of research tools. But when it comes to the classroom, I usually have my students use our good friend Google.
As I began to browse through the databases listed on the Cool Tools for Schools Blog, I realized how many great options I have to use with my students. I was most fascinated by InstaGrok and Carrot Search because of their visual layouts. As much as I love Google, these two sites present information in completely new and different ways.
To experiment, I used the same search term for both sites and chose to search metaphor. I found both sites to be user-friendly and databases that would appeal to my visual learners. When using InstaGrok I receive a definition and had the option to see key facts, websites, videos, images, concepts, and even take notes. The huge plus? I could share my grok across a variety of platforms including Twitter, Pinterest, and Facebook!!! I also appreciate that students have to do a little bit of “digging” to find the
information they need when using InstaGrok by clicking on different words and tabs. How often do students, or we as adults, go to the first few links we find on Google and end our search? Pretty often, at least for me.
At first glance, Carrot Search is very similar to Google; you type in your query and receive a list of results with a link and a small blurb. When you look closer, you can sort your results by folders, circles, or a FoamTree. Then, your sorting feature pulls of the results based on the link you click!
These two databases are definitely new tools I would like to share with my students. However, rather than just list them along with databases they are familiar with, I would like students to learn how to use them with specific assignments. This would most likely be in our first module (for all English courses). This way, students will have guidelines and supports to get the most out of each and determine which database works best for them academically.