Sunday, December 9, 2012

Great (and safe!) Search Engines for Kids

Years of integrating web tools with my classes has provided me with a plethora of favorite sites that I like to have kids use (yes, I wrote that sentence just so I could use the word "plethora.")

Try this:  ask kids how they do a web search. The answer is (almost) always "Google."  When I'm teaching, I help them pull up a Google search and show them that 13 million results were returned, and ask them if they have time to read 13 million sites, and whether all of those would be kid-appropriate (oh, it's 86 and a half million if you're searching for sharks, FYI.)  They laugh and know I have something better up my sleeve.

GAH!  Too many results!

All of the sites shown (and linked) below have a keyword search (the blank box where you type in your search term) as well as category search buttons (unfortunately, the Yahoo for Kids site's search bar doesn't seem to be working as of this writing.)  Each of them ALSO has games, activities, and things to do.  Truthfully, you could limit your child to using one of these during a typical computer session (even for "play" time) and it would keep them happy for quite some time.  The results of the searches on these sites have been carefully selected for appropriateness and relevance as well as for accuracy.  

When a student is doing research, it's important to teach them to bookmark sites or otherwise note where the information came from.  (It's just like when we wrote papers in college - you should be able to show where every claim you make came from.)  One easy way to teach kids this skill:  Have them research with a Word document open.  As they find good information, they can copy the info into the document (keyboard shortcuts work super well here:  CTRL-c is copy, CTRL-v is paste) and then go back and get the URL of the website and copy and paste it along with the info.  (This technique also saves paper - if you let them just print the page they are on, you can often end up with many more pages printed than expected!)  With the Word document saved, they now can make notes, organize information, and go back for more information if needed, since they have the URL of the websites they visited.  No bookmarks clogging up your browser, either. 

(Note:  This post simply a suggestion that kids can find better information by using kid-friendly search sites.  There is a LOT more to teaching kids research skills.  This is not a post about research skills, nor is it a post about evaluating websites, but I do teach those things, too!   Stay tuned for more!)

Sending kids to kid-friendly search engines and resource sites just makes sense. Let's limit their exposure to nastiness as much as possible, people! Here are a few of my favorites.

 Hey!  Designed by a librarian?  Well, it MUST be good!
On KidsKonnect you can page down past the "fast facts" in each category to reach their selected links about the topic.
Internet Public Library
One cool feature on IPL2 for kids is the languages area (Say Hello) where kids can learn about different languages.  Guten Tag!

Yahoo for kids (used to be Yahooligans)
Yahoo's search bar is not working, so direct your kids to the Study Zone tab.  Show them that they can click one of the categories (shown below) and links to topics within that category will appear on the next page's left side.

Let's be clear.  None of these sites works as well as Google.  

But if you are concerned about internet safety for your kiddos, this is one way to let them do research and be relatively certain that they'll be linked to appropriate sites.

Are there any sites you know of that should be added to this list?

Next:  a few of my all-time favorite sites for kids to explore (and learn) - while having FUN!

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