Monday, August 2, 2010

Seven Search Engines for Students

A major concern that teachers, parents, librarians, and school administrators have whenever their students search for information on the Internet is having the students stumble across inappropriate materials. One way to alleviate that fear is to create your own search engine using Google Custom Search, but that could become very time-consuming. Another option is to have students use search engines intended for academic and or child use. Here are seven search engines for students of all ages.

Sweet Search is a search engine that searches only the sites that have been reviewed and approved by a team of librarians, teachers, and research experts. In all there are 35,000 websites that have been reviewed and approved by Sweet Search. In addition to the general search engine, Sweet Search offers five niche search engines. The niche search engines are for Social Studies, Biographies, SweetSites (organized by grade and subject area), School Librarians, and Sweet Search 4 Me (for elementary school students).

KidRex is a new kid-safe search engine powered by Google custom search. KidRex uses a combination of Google's safe search mode and their own database of filtered keywords, phrases, and websites. In the event that a questionable website does get past the filters, KidRex has a site removal request form.

Ref Seek is a search engine designed for academic use. Ref Seek seems to eliminate the advertising and paid links found on Google, Ask, Yahoo, and other commercial search engines. Ref Seek's intention is to serve only search results that are academic in nature. The difference between Ref Seek and a generic Google search lies lower than the top results in search returns. As you compare search results between Ref Seek and Google you will find that the second and third pages of search results on Ref Seek contain results that seem to be more "academic" than what is found on the second and third pages of a generic Google search.

Famhoo is another option for kid friendly searches. Famhoo draws on the collective results of the major search mainstream search engines like Google, AOL, and Yahoo. Famhoo simply provides a stricter family filter than the filters available on mainstream search engines.

Ask Kids is the kid friendly, kid safe version of the popular search engine Ask Kids is divided into five categories of which one is a general search option. The five categories are School House, movies, games, images, and video. The School House category provides students with suggested topics and links to resources for those topics. The School House also serves as a general search tool. In the other search categories Ask Kids makes suggestions for search refinement. A great aspect of the search results that Ask Kids provides is the option to refine searches based on a student's age. Thanks to Joy Kirr for pointing out that this resource is no longer online.

Wolfram Alpha is billed as a computational search engine and this is exactly what it does. If students have any questions involving numbers, Wolfram Alpha is the place to go. Wolfram Alpha can be used for other searches, but it's not nearly as useful for general inquiries as it is for computational questions.
Google Scholar is one of Google's lesser-known tools. Google Scholar is a search engine designed to search scholarly journals, Supreme Court records, and patent records. In some cases the results will link to abstracts of books and articles that you will then have to obtain from a library or book retailer. In other cases results will link to fully viewable documents.
Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
Beyond Google - Improve Your Search Results
Mashpedia - The Real-time Encyclopedia
Wolfram Alpha for Educators - Free Lesson Plans

Month in Review - July's Most Popular Posts

Many of us will be starting the 2010-2011 school year in August. Judging by the increased traffic to Free Technology for Teachers a lot of us are starting to think about new things to try in the new school year. Trying to implement all of the ideas I had over the summer is one of the things that I love about going back to school in the fall. To help you "stock-up" on ideas for fall here are July's ten most popular posts.

1. Seven Videos All Educators Should Watch
2. A Fun Video for Introducing Google Docs
3. Google for Teachers II - Free 33 Page Guide
4. Every Teacher Should Have a Blog & How to Create One
5. Simple Diagrams - Free Diagram Creation Tool
6. 3 Web-based Tools for Creating Screencast Videos
7. Ten Uses for in Education
8. Nine Survey Tools for Teachers and Students
9. Learn It In 5 - Tech How-to Videos for Teachers
10. Sweet Search - A Search Engine for Students

Thank you to everyone that helped spread the word about the great resources listed above. Together we can help spread the word to other teachers about the great free resources that can make our students' learning experiences better.

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image credit: Flickr user: gothamschools

Family Shield - Filtering for Your Home Network

Family Shield, powered by OpenDNS, is a service that can be used to filter the content accessed by anyone on your home network. Family Shield is designed to filter adult websites, proxy and anonymizer websites, and phishing websites. Step-by-step directions are provided for setting-up Family Shield on your home computer(s) and router(s).

Applications for Education
I generally prefer to emphasize education about the Internet over blocking access to the Internet, but I also understand that a lot of parents would still prefer to have a way to restrict the content their children can access from home. If you're asked by a parent for advice on Internet filtering at home, consider referring that person to Family Shield.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
Phishing Detection Education
A Thin Line - Digital Safety Education for Teens
Safe Computing Tools for Kids - Windows Based

Did You Miss the Reform Symposium?

The Reform Symposium wrapped-up yesterday with a closing keynote by Steven Anderson. The three day online event featured some outstanding people sharing their ideas, best practices, and technology tips for improving the learning experiences of our students. A demonstration of how dedicated some people were to this event can be found in Kelly Hines webcasting from her car outside of a McDonald's restaurant. If you missed any or all of the sessions, most of the recordings are now available on the Reform Symposium website. Just click on the schedules and select the presentation you'd like to view. And thanks again to Shelly, Kelly, Chris, and Jason for all of their hard work in organizing a very successful event.

Hotseat - Backchannel Platform Coming to a Classroom Near You

Some smart IT folks at Purdue University are developing a new platform for hosting classroom backchannel discussions. The new platform is called Hotseat. According the Hotseat website and the promotional videos, Hotseat will integrate Twitter, Facebook, and mobile device feedback into one stream. It doesn't appear to available to the world yet, but it looks promising. Check out the video below to learn more.

H/T to Jim Gates for posting the link on Twitter.

Applications for Education
As I mentioned during my Reform Symposium presentation about backchannels in the classroom, student backchanneling solves a few challenges that all teachers face at one time or another. Those challenges are having time to hear every student's question or comment, providing voice for shy students, and improving the relevance and timeliness of your responses to students and their responses to each other. The recording of my presentation is now available here (clicking the link will open an Elluminate page).

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
Five Platforms for Classroom Back-channel Chat
Back-channeling During a Class Viewing of Glory

Two Examples of Backchannels in Elementary School