Out of all places, I was at an art opening for sustainable technology for the world’s poor, when I ended up geeking out about education with a new acquaintance. He told me about his new project, still in alpha, which I thought was a nifty concept. Called Instagrok, it’s intended to be a better search engine for educational materials. It filters out all the non-educational stuff (commercial sites, popular culture stuff), and organizes the results by websites, videos, courses (which doesn’t seem to have anything in it yet), Q&A, books, experts, concepts, and quizzes. They might have over-categorized, since some of those categories aren’t things that I think I’d be searching for, but I really liked being able to see the quizzes (great opportunities for self-testing for studying) and the Q&A (which has all those expert forums, very useful to look at). Another super helpful feature was the set of keywords for each search. A search for “quantum mechanics” allows me to then further refine the search by “Copenhagen interpretation” or “Bohr” or “angular momentum” — terms that a novice might not know to look for. You can filter by difficulty, though this seems to mainly just remove certain keywords (eg., “correspondence principle”) in favor of more simple filter terms (e.g, “wave function”).
So, overall, I like the idea, but these types of “good ideas” are often uphill battles — can the engine be coded so you find what you’re really supposed to find? Can everyone “grok” the organizational structure — instantly or not? And how do you get students to use it? Curious to hear what others think.
Below is their little demo video, but it’s a bit slow so I’d suggest just going to the site and playing around. They say they’d love feedback!