9 Nov 2012

instaGrok (find out about stuff and pin it down)

…is a discovery tool that explicitly targets the learning and education audience out there. I played around with it and surely feel that it represents a very effective alternative to using well-worn mainstream search engines when it comes to finding out about things and conducting topical research.

instaGrok uses an interactive mind-map that displays concepts based on any given subject you’re interested in. Enter a subject term (keyword or a short phrase) that is of interest to you, and suggested concepts are retrieved that link to related resources.

Say for example you’d like to find out more about Marx, his philosophical roots and ideas about the proletariat, bourgeoisie and the curse of capitalism. Enter Karl Marx into the search and the following result presents itself:

It is possible from the outset to adjust the level of detail when running this (any) search (see slide at the top). Each concept node links to various other nodes and relevant resources (look out for key facts, websites, images and glossary etc. on the right hand side). You can plot a conceptual route by pinning down nodes as part of the discovery process, whilst at the same time removing nodes that you’re not so much interested in. This can be a very useful filter mechanism when conducting research on a narrowly defined topic.

A search history keeps tabs on the subjects of interest that you looked at previously. You can play with instaGrok without creating an account, but you might as well do just that in order to sample its very useful core features, namely the customising of concept maps, keeping a search history and creating a personal journal.

The study journal function is really quite handy as it enables you to document your research results for later use in a new information context (say you're adding stuff from readings that you took off the bookshelf in the library). The journal is quickly populated as you can freely note down ideas around nodes and pin related key facts, videos and images and then email the same to yourself.

What I like most about instaGrok is that it utilises crowd sourcing for the purpose of selecting and rating recommended information resources. To sum it up here, instaGrok is an intuitively to use search engine that lends itself as a good starting point for pulling in Web resources (and conceptually map them), that will enable you to quickly answer more complex questions.


  1. Thanks Alex - I think this could work well as an online info literacy activity. e.g. on the topic of 'plagiarism' participants could pin down the 'best' websites, facts or videos about a topic after appraising them, complete the quiz and then submit the maap by sharing it. Could be a useful follow-up activity to F2F instruction perhaps.

  2. ...oh fur sure, great idea that, Michelle.