Alternative Search Tools

Steven W. Anderson is a recognized expert in using social media in education. Steven regularly consults with schools and districts around the country on how they can use social media to break down barriers and extend learning beyond the classroom walls.
A regular presenter at ASCD, ISTE and various other state/local conferences, Steven speaks on technology integration, leadership and education reform. In his home district he works with school administrators, helping them to build their capacity for change and leadership with technology. Steven resides in North Carolina with his wife Melissa and their daughter Reaghan.

If you spend anytime around kids doing research you will notice some trends emerge about their search habits. One of the biggest? When they begin a search for information they open their browser and more often than not point it to Google (or some other major search engine.) Most times the results are the same but what kids do with the results is drastically different. You can hear the computer lab fill with the sound of mouse clicks. They are looking at sites, taking down notes, spending very little time taking a look at the information before digesting it.

There are some simple techniques that students can employ to do more and get more out of their searches.

One of the easiest is to check out a search engine’s advanced options. In Google, in the upper right of the search page is a gear that will lead you to several options to dive deep into searches. Things like searching just sites with the specific word order instead of any order. Or doing a search but eliminating results you don’t need. You can also narrow your results by language, region, or the last time the page was updated. You can also sort pages by reading level and even search for different file types.

There are more great lessons and tips for teaching kids the right (and wrong) ways to search using Google or just performing searches in general. There are some great posters too. Head over to Google For Educators to learn more.

One of the lessons I tried to pass along to my students is that (insert large search engine name here) might not be best for what they are searching for. There are lots and lots of specialized search engines out there to get you right to the information you are looking for. Here are just a few.

EasyBib Research is a very powerful social search engine, you can search through the create bibliographies of the users who have made their public and find new resources to use in your projects.

Here you can search all the sites in the Creative Commons directory to find images, music and video you are free to remix and use freely.

This specialized search engine from Google searches the entire Patent directory.

This is the place to go for finding free eBooks to use in the classroom or for personal use.

There are lots more options too. Check out this page for lots of specialize search engines.

And if you can’t find a search engine to meet your needs? Or do you want to help kids better understand where their information comes from? Check out creating a Google Custom Search Engine.

Happy searching!

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