I love choice. Some people complain about too much choice—it’s known as the Paradox of Choice—but not me.
I also love Edmodo. And with 17.4 million users (as of this second), it’s clear that so do many of you.
Back in August we released instaGrok Classroom on Edmodo. It includes the same features as Classroom on instaGrok.com, including a teacher dashboard, more control over content, premium support, no advertising, and so on. It’s proven very popular, and for that we thank you.
However, it’s also created the aforementioned rift in the time-space continuum. instaGrok.com users could take advantage of the core research features for free, or they could subscribe to the Classroom edition if they wanted the additional functionality. However, Edmodo users had to pay before they even had a chance to try instaGrok. Understandably, many people weren’t willing to do so.
So we’re announcing a free version of instaGrok on Edmodo. It includes all the research functionality you’ll find on instaGrok.com. Users can:
- Click on concept nodes to focus their research
- Adjust their level of expertise
- View key facts, links, images, and videos
- Customize the Grok to show what they think is important
- Test their knowledge with quizzes
- Write a report in the journal
So now there are two versions of instaGrok on Edmodo:
See? I told you that choice is good.
Sunday was not a fun day here at instaGrok World Headquarters. As many of you noted, we had an unplanned outage. We owe you, our users, an explanation and an apology.
At around 6:30am PT we received an alert that instaGrok was down. At first we thought it was just a hiccup and things would be back to normal soon, but that wasn’t the case. Our servers had a number of disk errors, and we worked with our hosting company for much of the day to diagnose and repair the issue. instaGrok was back online at 8:15pm PT.
How We’re Responding
- We are sorry. As many of you made clear to us, instaGrok is critical to your research, and this wasn’t acceptable.
- If you have a subscription to instaGrok Classroom, we’re extending it by one month.
- We’re coordinating with our hosting provider to avoid a repeat experience. We can’t promise that it’ll never happen again, but we’re working very hard to prevent it.
- If you ever encounter issues with instaGrok’s performance, please check our Twitter feed. That’s where you’ll get the most up-to-date information.
As you know, instaGrok allows you to customize and share concept maps, so you can share what you are learning about with your friends or classmates.
Now you can personalize even more with the addition of notes – little bits of text you can add to different parts of the graph, just like Post-It notes! Notes help you remember important ideas, and share what you find interesting about your topic.
To add a note, select the relevant concept, type in the text into the yellow “(add note)” box, and hit Enter. The note is added to your graph (and journal). To edit a note, click on it (showing the editing box), edit the note, and hit Enter. To delete a note, select it for editing, delete the entire text, and hit Enter.
So, what will you do with notes?
As you know, instaGrok lets you share links to your favorite searches, e.g. (http://www.instagrok.com/grok/?query=gravity), with your friends as well as students and teachers. Well sharing has just gotten a lot more exciting!
Now you can share your customized maps and journals, together with things you have pinned and notes you have written. To do that, just use the “Share URL” button to get the URL that you can pass around. Or you can use the Twitter/Facebook/Google+ share buttons.
For example, the screen shot above is from Kirill’s search on “hybrid cars”. The shared link to the personalized map and journal is:
When other instaGrok users go to your shared link, they will be able to see your decorated graph and notes in the journal. They can continue modifying the graph; the changes will not affect your copy, but rather they will work on their own copy of the annotated graph/journal on the topic.
For Teachers: We anticipate this feature being useful for teachers – to give students guidance on the research topic. A teacher can add a prompt to the journal (i.e. instructions, essay prompt(s) and/or a list of recommended websites to get started with pinned in the graph/journal). Then a teacher would share their customized URL with the students, allowing them to begin work with a pre-populated graph/journal. (In the near future, you will also be able to see students’ annotated maps in the teacher dashboard, just like you currently see their journals).
Of course, this is just the beginning! In the near future, we will significantly enhance the functionality to customize the graphs, making it more fun to curate and share what you’ve learned. instaGrok isn’t just a great way to learn; now it’s a great way to share what you’ve learned!
We’re happy to announce that InstaGrok now runs on Internet Explorer 9 and above. If you know someone who uses IE and has been dying to try InstaGrok, please let them know!
Why didn’t it run before?
But I’m running IE8! Or 7. Or 6…
Engineering around the limitations of old versions of Internet Explorer would involve a tremendous amount of work just to replicate features that already work in standards-compliant browsers. We’re a small team doing some pretty cutting-edge stuff—our algorithms are patented—so we have to carefully choose how we spend our time. We’ve decided to build a more compelling experience for the vast majority of users who choose other browsers. (And we’re not alone in making this call.)
We hope you understand, and we urge you to upgrade to a more modern, standards-compliant, and safer browser:
InstaGrok is a great tool for everyone interested in learning. That said, students and teachers have been among our earliest and most vocal fans. The ability to visually research a topic—and focus on what’s important—has proven invaluable in classrooms worldwide. Now we’re making it even better.
What Hasn’t Changed
Many educators are already familiar with how InstaGrok trumps traditional search engines:
- Students using InstaGrok explore a graphical map that shows how concepts connect. They can quickly refine their research and zero in on important ideas.
- InstaGrok provides key facts, links, images, and videos. These are culled from relevant educational websites. Users can click through to verify the original sources.
That core experience is—and always will be—100% free.
Introducing InstaGrok Classroom
Today we’re announcing a premium educational version of InstaGrok. For the past few months we’ve been beta testing it with hundreds of teachers. Let’s highlight some of the benefits:
- Teacher dashboard
Now you’ll have insight into your students’ research and note-taking activity: you can see what they’re searching, how much time they’re spending, and what they’re writing in their journal. Up to 200 students can link their accounts to each teacher ID.
- No advertising
Teacher and student accounts don’t have ads. Period.
- Safe content
instaGrok for students automatically removes any site that contains profanity or sexual content from the search results. In addition, you as a teacher can explicitly remove controversial sites (e.g. biased or questionable sources) from being seen by students. You can read more about how to do that here.
- Premium support
Cutting in line might get your students a detention, but we think you’ll make an exception for this. While we’ve always prided ourselves on being responsive, now we’re moving questions from classroom accounts to the head of the queue.
- New features based on your feedback
Help us make this product even better. Have a suggestion? Please don’t be shy.
How to sign up:
- Simply create an account with “Teacher” role.
- More details can be found in this post.
Think we’re missing some critical feature for the premium educational version? Tell us how we can win you over.
If you are in the world of K-12 of education, chances are you have heard of Edmodo, a social learning network for for teachers, students, and parents with over 7 millions users!
We are happy to announce that instaGrok is now an application at the Edmodo App store.
Installing instaGrok through Edmodo allows you teachers to assign Edmodo assignments to their students, and students to submit their journal entries as Edmodo assignments.
When a teacher installs instaGrok through Edmodo, their Edmodo class is automatically registered in instaGrok, and shows up in the instaGrok teacher dashboard, allowing them to see students’ activity for their class(es), and view/comment on their journals.
Students in the Edmodo class can submit their journal as an Edmodo assignment, using the Edmodo button on the journal’s toolbar. This brings up a dialog box, prompting them to select one of the assignments their teacher assigned in Edmodo:
The journal will then show up in the teacher’s Edmodo panel: