Google’s Wonder Wheel ISN’T Gone!

I got a panicked email from a teacher friend last Thursday.  It read:

"Bill…you've got to help me.  I'm using your book and wanted to show my students how to target their research projects using Google's Wonder Wheel.  Then, I come in this morning and the Wonder Wheel is gone. 

Now what am I supposed to do?"

My first reaction was to groan simply because disappearing tools is one of my greatest fears as the author of a book on technology.  In fact, if you ask the Solution Tree folks, they'll tell you they had to twist my arm to get me to write a book on technology because I was afraid to be the author of an outdated title.

That's also why the majority of my book is focused on skills—-problem solving, communication, collaboration, information management—-instead of tools. Skills rarely change.  Tools are constantly changing.

My second reaction was, "Why in the world would Google get rid of such a great tool for researching?"

The answer—which I learned only after poking around for about 45 minutes—is that they haven't.  Instead, the Wonder Wheel—which automatically breaks broad concepts down into related subtopics—has simply ended up hidden because of a new service that Google rolled out called Google Instant.

Google Instant displays search results automatically while you're typing—and I'm not sure why, but Google's Wonder Wheel doesn't appear in the search sidebar when Google Instant is activated

If you want to see the Wonder Wheel, you've got to turn Google Instant off by clicking the small "Instant is On" link next to the search box on any search results page.  After making that change, you'll be able to search "the old fashioned way" and to find the Wonder Wheel in the sidebar of the search results page again. 

I know it's a bit of a pain—I'm still trying to figure out why Google would want to hide one of it's most valuable tools—but at least the Wonder Wheel isn't gone forever!  That would be a real disaster.

If you're a teacher who hasn't played with the Wonder Wheel yet, you're missing out!  Check out this lesson—which I included in Teaching the iGeneration—to learn more about how it can be a great tool for helping students to focus their research projects.

14 thoughts on “Google’s Wonder Wheel ISN’T Gone!

  1. Double Glazing

    The google wonder wheel is a graphical representation of related search terms that can help you explore your search subject and topic. The webmaster can discover keywords for niche topics and catagories as well.

  2. plumbing

    Many of the services and tools that Google offers are usually available in other languages. It is great to know that the Google Wonder Wheel is accessible in other languages as well. People from different countries can now use this tool and enjoy the benefits it offers.

  3. garage equipment

    Google’s Wonder Wheel is a great tool that’s free for your use on the Internet for keyword discovery. If you’re searching for suggestions for keywords, or are figuring out the most effective method to layout the structure for your websites.

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    True. Google’s Wonder Wheel has got to be the best resource that’s available on the Internet for keyword discovery. If you’re searching for suggestions for keywords, or are figuring out the best method to layout the structure for a website, you cannot go wrong by utilizing the keywords that Google suggests for your use.

  5. TeachMoore

    Guess what? It’s not just middle school kids who struggle to break down large topics into workable topics or questions. My community college freshmen and dual enrollment high school seniors LOVE Wonder Wheel! Most of them have never really explored the other parts of Google besides the basic search engine. Thanks for the great tip, Bill.

  6. Bill Ferriter

    Hey Amanda,
    The Wonder Wheel is one of my favorite Google tools simply because it addresses an all too common problem in middle school teaching: Kids who struggle to break large research topics down into their component parts.
    It’s especially helpful for kids with little background knowledge about topics being studied in social studies and science classes. When they type in a generic term like “World War II” or “Volcanoes,” they end up with instant access to a bunch of smaller concepts that they can build their reports around.
    Does this make sense?

  7. Bill Ferriter

    Very cool, Julie and Teacha—both that you’re modeling digital resilience for your students and that you’re actually using my book!
    I’m proud of both of yas, that’s for sure. That kind of determination is what we need in the classroom nowadays.
    Rock on,

  8. Amanda Bosarge

    I am commenting as a student from Prof. Strange’s EDM 310 Class. This blog on the Wonder Wheel was wonderful! I had never heard of the Wonder Wheel, so I went to the Google search engine, turned off the instant, and clicked on the Wonder Wheel. I have had a fun time playing with the Wonder Wheel and am excited to teach it to my future students as a great way to brainstorm for research projects. Thank you for taking the time to researching the “disappearance of the Wonder Wheel” and reintroducing the solution!

  9. Julie Combs

    I launched Wonder Wheel today with my students and was surprised as well by how it disappeared. Another tale for the epic tech failures! Anyhow, it turned into a teachable moment as I googled ‘where is the Wonder Wheel,’ and found the solution to the problem in just a few minutes. The kids watched as I found the solution and applied the solution to their own computers. Proof once again how powerful the internet can be for finding solutions.

  10. Teacha

    A HUGE thank you. I did a session on your book a few weeks back and much to my dismay WonderWheel had vanished other than on the Macs that some participants were using. Describing what it is doesn’t do it justice!

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