Thursday, January 29, 2009

Google Custom Search

Do any of you use Google Custom Search to make Internet searching more manageable for students? Essentially, you can make a mini-search engine, powered by Google, but only finding results you pre-approve. I put one together last year for my 7th grade students, and the teachers loved it. I think the students appreciated it also. Now I am updating it for this year's research. I go back and forth about Google Custom Search though. It is taking away the need to evaluate websites, therefore lessening the student's experience with this important skill.

I can see using it to teach evaluation and searching - the results are controlled, and the search screen looks very much like Google's. Or if younger students are researching sensitive topics and you want want to allow Internet research but want to make sure the students stay clear of inappropriate sites, this might be a good solution.
In my case, we are using it to make the Internet smaller, in a way. And to keep the kids from wasting time on the blogs that aren't meant to be used for research. The students are investigating what it is like to live in certain Middle Eastern countries, and then they are writing historical fiction from the perspective of an Israeli soldier, or an Iraqi teenager, etc. They aren't experienced enough to know or understand all the bias they would encounter on the web, so we made a selection of sites available to them, but they may carefully go out on a regular search engine if they want to. This way it isn't seen as restrictive, but rather as a guided experience.
Do you use Google Custom Search? Would you?

1 comment:

  1. We have used Google custom search engines with very good success with our 7th and 8th graders. I think of it like learning to drive. You wouldn't take a student driver with a learner's permit out down the 405 fwy the first time they're behind the wheel. We start on the surface streets of Brentwood and Bel Air and work our way up to freeway driving. If students still need custom search engines when they're matriculating to university, you've got a problem, but its a great tool for teaching searching in a "limited" www. Just my $.02.