How Do Your Students Search?

questionsThe days of having volumes of encyclopedias in classrooms and in home bookshelves may be gone, but it was the only way to search before the Internet. For many educators, it was the way they learned to search as children. Searching was not as complete, especially if a volume was lost, or you needed to share one with five other students.  Today, there are more than a few ways to search online, but students may still only do the type of searching an individual teacher feels comfortable in doing. Searching best practices can be an over-looked professional development workshop.

Is Wikipedia a searching start?

Many students start their searches with Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Main_Page), and those searches can be done in many languages (http://www.wikipedia.org/).  There’s absolutely nothing wrong with starting at Wikipedia. It’s a great place to get a lot of general information on a topic, person, or place in a very quick way. It’s good for what it is, a summary of sorts, to help with search meaning. If you don’t know who Gutenberg is, you can get a general idea at Wikipedia, with additional links for adding to your basic information on the subject. Students need to learn that this is not the end of searching for a topic, but rather foundational for a more complete investigation.

What about search engines?

Well, most educators and students use Google search. This follows the general population as well.  In many cases the statement, “Google it!” is the standard charge for students sent to the Internet for search by educators.

Here’s how the five US search engines ranked in June 2013:

1. Google: (https://www.google.com/) About 67% of all US searches, which equals about 13 million searches

2. BING (http://www.bing.com/) About 18% of US searches

3. Yahoo (http://www.bing.com/) A little over 11% of US searches

4. Ask  (http://www.ask.com/) Almost 3% of US searches

5. AOL (http://www.aol.com/) A little over 1% of US searches

Educators can have students try all search engines to learn differences in returns. The real lessons are in formulating the best search words, and then interpreting whether the information is reliable. The latter can be the most important lesson taught. Comparing many different search returns can help to get closer to the truth, and the best online information for students… and adults, too.

Editor’s Note: There is still an online version of Encyclopedia Britannica, and a special version for kids. Both are for registration and subscription fees.

Ken Royal

Ken Royal is an educator with 34 years of classroom/school and instructional technology teaching experience, as well as a blogger on all things education and education technology. Teaching accomplishments include: 4-time district teacher of the year, Connecticut Middle School Teacher of the Year, as well as Bill and Melinda Gates award for Technology School of Excellence. He is an Education storyteller. Follow @KenRoyal on Twitter.
3 Comments on this post.
  • Shannon Betts
    Shannon Betts
    16 August 2013 at 1:20 pm -

    Worth a mention here that there are reviewed collections of databases that are often excellent.sources of information for young searchers. Sweet Search, for example http://www.sweetsearch.com/, is a search engine of reviewed websites built on Google search technology. Contains thousands of librarian- and teacher-reviewed websites – best for grades 4 and up.

    Two other collections of librarian-reviewed websites for kids:

    Internet Public Library for Kids http://www.ipl.org/div/kidspace

    Kids Click! http://www.kidsclick.org/

  • Tony Parkin (@tonyparkin)
    18 August 2013 at 5:33 am -

    I was a little surprised to find YouTube missing from this list? Whatever we text-based educators may feel about it, a significant number of our mutlimedia-led students turn first to YouTube to find out about any topic. All educators should try this out from time to time to help them see how this affects their students’ view of the world, and to gain insights into some of the responses to their homework tasks!

    • Ken Royal
      Ken Royal
      18 August 2013 at 4:52 pm -

      Thanks for your comment Tony. Just what we hoped would happen. More good information posted by those reading our posts. And yes, if I can’t do something, looking to YouTube often helps. Although it hasn’t helped my golf game! Lessons on sifting through quality content and well, let’s just say the rest of the interesting stuff is certainly an academic challenge and goal, too.