How I Use It
I have introduced many search engines (Google - readability levels, Google Scholar, Bing, Smithsonian, Library of Congress, etc.) to my students in hopes that they would be able become familiar with the multiple tools available for research. My students have used InstaGrok as a tool WITHOUT a subscription both in the library and in the class for group work. When given a search engine choice, I can say the majority my students choose InstaGrok over a linear engine. Our district has an exceptional filter, so questionable material is screened out. As like many products, when InstaGrok first came out, there were some glitches, but it appears that the glitches are now fixed. My students also use InstaGrok for brainstorming writing topics as well as refining topics, it is very good about helping students narrow topics! With a subscription (see note below regarding free subscription) students are able to journal and work collaboratively. I especially like that students are required to evaluate media they use on the site for credibility and accuracy - a great tool for teaching/prepping students how to respond to discussion board prompts (citing evidence). Strongly suggest when introducing any research tool, have students critique the tool with a rubric so they are fully aware of the pros and cons of the tool and best uses. In addition to the critique, you may also have students check site ownership via http://www.whois.com/whois/ (simply cut and paste web address of media) and search domain name registration - the results can prove to be a lesson in critical thinking on its own and also provide evidence of credibility of site (who’s site, and agenda).
Students benefited from the ability to differentiate content levels as well as go beyond the "first three" that most students gravitate to on a linear search. I like the ability to track student progress: accountability, critical thinking (big ideas/concepts), and formative assessment (view query and sites visited: on track?). Per email InstaGrok is offering a free year long subscription for teachers and up to 200 students, "For the next month, we are offering a free year-long instaGrok Classroom subscription. To redeem, simply create a "Teacher" account (if you haven't already), go to instagrok.com/payment and enter the coupon code: SUMMER2014 ." Try it - your students will thank you!