Friday, May 11, 2007

Share and Tell #2: Custom Search Engine

Teachers often bemoan their students' Internet search strategies. Kids, especially younger ones, often surf to Google, type in general search terms, and end up with thousands, if not millions, of results. Many of these results probably are not very relevant and, kids experience difficulty sifting through pages of hits. Clearly, teachers need to teach kids methods of refining their searches. Additionally, there is a Google tool that might help kids become more efficient web searchers.

Custom Search Engine lets your create your own search engine based on preselected sites. This provides a more directed research focus for your students. I created my first engine last fall, and used it in with my classes that participated Google's Global Warming Student Speakout project. I've continued to add more sites geared toward my middle school computer science classes to this engine. The second search engine I created was comprised of sites I regularly explore for when compiling my Friday 5 resource lists. I've embedded this particular search engine in my blog so teachers can look for additional lessons and project ideas. Finally, inspired by the other Lucie who wanted to specifically search the Infinite Thinking Machine, I created a third search engine, using sites cited in the ITM, blogs of the contributors, and the ITM blog itself.

One important Custom Search Engine feature is that you can embed a self-created search engine in a blog or a web site; the html code is provided. You can also invite others to contribute to your search engine, and you can use the Google Marker to bookmark sites directly to your customized search tool. Google Co-op also facilitates collaboration as other people can be given permission to add to the list of sites, and you can add your Custom Search Engine to your iGoogle customized homepage as well.

I also recently discovered a more sophisticated use of Custom Search Engine. In this blog post, Wisconsin educator John Pederson describes how he translated the feeds from his newsreader and used them to roll a search engine based on items he reads daily. His search engine is directly available here. To see how others have used Google Co-op, check out Google's featured examples and the Custom Search Engine blog.

Homework Assignment #2

1) Create your own custom search engine and post the URL in the comments section of this blog post.


2) Join one of my search engines and add sites that you think are worthwhile. Just click on the Volunteer to Contribute link and I'll approve anyone interested in collaborating.

The Infinite Thinking Machine Search Engine
The Friday 5 Search Engine
Mrs. Gray's Research Sites for Kids