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Are you looking for safe, simple, and free research tools to use in the classroom?

Whether researching material for a paper or trying to locate and evaluate information on the job, students need to develop the critical thinking and problem-solving skills required to effectively find and evaluate information. While students may think they know how to use the Internet, it can often be difficult to sift through the sheer volume of information to find accurate, quality information.

Take a look at a couple of our favorite tools for both researching and finding quality information, and organizing it in a way that increases comprehension and retention.

It's time to use technology to get your students researching on the go!

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Instagrok: A Student-Friendly Research Tool

Are you looking for a safe and easy student research tool? Try InstaGrok.

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Available for the desktop or as a mobile app on Apple or Android devices, InstaGrok is an educational search engine that filters content to make sure it is classroom-appropriate. That means teachers don't have to worry about their students coming across inappropriate content.

Student searches are put into a visual concept map called a “Grok.” That makes it easy to grasp more information in a shorter amount of time. Groks show key facts related to the search topic with the original links, and will even include videos and images as a part of the concept map. These visual maps also make it easy to access cited sources. Other features include a handy journal feature that students can use to take detailed notes while they are researching, and can also quiz themselves on the information.

The best way to see how InstaGrok works is to see it for yourself. Take a look at this page for more ideas on how you can use this research tool in your classroom.

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Google Research Tool: Help Students Document Research

Have you ever wondered, "What is an easier way to help students document research?" If you're interested in helping students more easily create citations, this tool is for you.

One of the benefits of using Google Docs in the classroom is the additional help provided by Google via all of the wonderful features of their free word processing tool. Let's take a minute to look a one of these extra add-ons, the Research feature.

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In the above 3-Minute Classroom Problem Solver video, Kim Munoz shows how you and your students can use the Research feature in Google Docs to add relevant research to papers, along with the proper footnotes and citations.

Another benefit of using this tool is that it keeps students all in one place while doing their research, because they don't have to leave the page or move outside of their document. This cuts down on potential distractions and keeps students focused on the task at hand.

For more on writing with Google Docs, I highly recommend this online training session from SimpleK12, Improve Writing Skills Using Digital Writing and Google Docs. Explore more of the writing features of Google Docs, all through the expertise of an experienced technology trainer with years of classroom experience. Join trainer Susan Oxnevad as she shows how to use Google Docs to incorporate digital writing into your curriculum thoughtfully. She explains how to utilize the latest Google Docs features fully, such as integrated reference tools and collaborative revision tools to help you and your students embrace digital writing.

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Popplet: Organize Ideas the Easy Way

Are you looking for a simple way to organize ideas for your classroom? Take a look at Popplet.

Available on the web and as an iOS app, Popplet allows you to capture and organize your ideas via concept maps. Concept maps, also referred to as mind maps or spider diagrams, are a great way to visualize ideas and store information.

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Available on the web and as an iOS app, Popplet allows you to capture and organize your ideas via concept maps. Concept maps, also referred to as mind maps or spider diagrams, are a great way to visualize ideas and store information.

You and your students can use Popplet to study, brainstorm, take notes, plan projects - the options are limited only by the many creative uses as you can develop. One of my favorite features of the tool, when compared to the traditional paper and pencil diagram method, is that it's simple to integrate images, videos, or links into your Popplet concept maps. This takes traditional concept mapping to a whole new level.

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Google Custom Search: A Better Way to Search Online with Students

There is an easier way to search online with students, and here it is...

Ever wondered how to keep your students focused while searching, and ensure they are only searching the correct classroom materials? In this 3-Minute Classroom Problem Solver, SimpleK12's Teacher Learning Community presenter Kim Munoz walks you through the process of creating a custom search engine to use with your students. This means the next time you search online with students, they'll keep their focus and only go within the boundaries you create for them.

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The Google Custom Search Engine, like most tools that we share here at SimpleK12, is completely free. Don't be fooled by its "all business" appearance, this is a wonderful tool to use in the classroom with students. After setting up your free Google account, you can create as many custom search engines as you like, making it easier than ever to search online with students. Take a look at the video above and learn how to set up your own search engine in just 3 minutes.

Google Custom Search Engine has some wonderful benefits, including:

  • increased search relevancy
  • lack of advertisements in search results
  • simple to embed anywhere you need it

After you've made your own custom search, try encouraging students to create their own or have them contribute high-quality educational websites to add to your own custom classroom search.

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Wolfram Alpha: Researching for the STEM Classroom

Are you looking for a free tool to enhance your STEM lessons? Take a look at Wolfram Alpha.

Available on the web and mobile devices, Wolfram Alpha is a new type of search that gives dynamic answers to your questions. While there are applications for art and music, many of the uses center on the math and sciences, making this unique search engine perfect for any STEM classroom.

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The best way to see exactly how Wolfram Alpha works is to see it for yourself. Trust me, after you take a look yourself you WILL be impressed! Here are just a few of my favorite ways to use Wolfram Alpha, with clickable examples to show exactly how it works:

  1. Show detailed steps to math problems. Example: solve 3x+4= 5x +7
  2. Display visual aids using graphing. Example: derivative of cosx * sinx
  3. Research specific science concepts and terms. Example: H20
  4. Gather scientific information on general topics. Example: animals

Take a look at this page for more ideas and examples of how you can use this unique tool in your STEM classroom. And if you're fortunate enough to have mobile devices in your class, Wolfram Alpha also offers a variety of mobile apps so you can use it on your devices too.

For more ideas on research tools for classroom use, check out this video, 15 Free Mobile Apps for Digital Research. Join master technology trainer Shelly Terrell as she covers a variety of free apps that get students to bookmark, annotate, categorize, cite, and take notes. She shares other apps that let them curate their research and display it in highly visual and engaging ways. Come discover 15 free digital research apps that are great for teachers and engaging for students.

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What's your favorite research tool to use with students? Tell me about it in a comment on this article.

Kimber Thompson is a Lead Moderator for SimpleK12 webinars and a Contributing Editor for SimpleK12.com. She writes frequently about education topics, and is passionate about tools and techniques that inspire young learners. You may reach her with ideas and comments at editor@simplek12.com.


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