A quick look at Instagrok
instaGrok is an interesting new tool for learning which began public beta testing last fall. It is the brainchild of Dr. Kirill Kireyev, a computer scientist/cognitive scientist in the San Francisco Bay area.
I went to the site and was able to quickly set up an account and begin playing. After entering the term Sakai (we’re in the process of changing over from Blackboard), I clicked “Search” and the tool began “grokking.” For those who did not grow up reading 1960s science fiction, “grok” is a term from Robert Heinlein’s classic book, Stranger in a Strange Land. To quote the book,
Grok means to understand so thoroughly that the observer becomes a part of the observed—to merge, blend, intermarry, lose identity in group experience.
instaGrok creates a web-like visualization based on semantic relationships between terms. If you click on a node in the web, additional related nodes appear. As you click on a term dropdown boxes also appear on the side with selection of links to websites, images, and videos, which you can follow to learn more about the topic. The user is also able to “pin” images, videos, and other items to the web. And there is a note-taking function under the Journal tab. Here’s a look at my web:
There is a lot more to the tool — instaGrok is not something you can get your arms around in ten minutes. This is certainly a creative idea and I believe it has promise. An article from the company’s blog - instaGrok user accounts in school - is one indication of the intellectual effort that Dr. Kireyev has poured into his startup. I wish him luck!