Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Safe Searches

Another year has begun. A new year is full of promise, expectation, excitement. And time for me to finally do what I have wanted to do for a long time—blog. My hope is that other librarians and educators will find what I share useful and interesting.

I am so fortunate in that I am the only librarian to have ever worked in this school. I got to set the library up the way I wanted, and every year my assistant and I tweak things just a little to make it run a bit more smoothly. We opened our school in 2009, and this will be my 7th year with my school. I feel like I have a pretty good handle on what the teachers and students need.

One thing I know my teachers need are safe sources for students to use to research. Sometimes a teaching opportunity comes up on the spur of the moment, and there is no time for me to send links and database articles to the teacher. Sometimes they just want to research “in house” on their own. Instead of waiting for them to come to me for sources or being passive about this, I am going to give them a list of five pre-screened search sites. It was six, but one of our favorites,, is offline right now and won’t come back for another 30 days, or so I am told.

Please don’t tell an eight-year-old that he can just “Google” an answer! You and I can do that because we have the ability to filter and evaluate reliability, relevance, and usefulness, but I don’t know a single second grader who possesses those skills yet. We need to teach searching and evaluation, but they are skills gained slowly with much guidance.

Here are some sites that I have found for kiddos. They were all evaluated by me on the day before I published this. If you find a broken link, tell me and I’ll fix it or find a replacement. By the way, a couple of these sights are merely custom Google searches. Anyone can create a custom Google search, but this way you don’t have to. This resource looks more like homework help than a search, but it has a lot of info that the students will need. Students can choose a category (such as math, science, or people) and continue to select categories until they get to their end point. Searches using the search box yield results from the Fact Monster Almanac, Atlas, Dictionary, and Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th edition. Cons—not nearly as broad as a search engine, but probably has most of what elementary kiddos need.
Image result for gogooligans Gogooligans is not affiliated with Google, but it is a Google custom search created using Google Custom Searches and Google’s SafeSearch. The proprieters say that they can further customize searches upon request. There are also options for older kids, a UK version, and a “LITE” version. Cons-- you need to supervise what students search, although I tried the “bad” cuss words and they were all blocked. So were “sex”, “how to make a bomb”, and “how to make meth.” A search on “drugs” yielded sites with information about prescription drugs and effects of drug abuse, but this is not the tightest and most restrictive search I evaluated. Know your kiddos, their maturity, and their needs.
Image result for kidrex  KidRex bills itself as a Google Custom search “by kids for kids.” This search is even tighter than Gogooligans. Searches for private body parts (and several of their nicknames) were blocked. Legitimate searches yielded good, usable results. Cons—may be too tight for older children doing legitimate research, but it may be a good time to teach synonyms.

Image result for kidtopia Another Google Custom search, but this time with buttons that look like homework help. This would be good for those who genuinely want to explore a subject or just look around at science, social studies, art, or other subjects. All of the sites have been recommended by teachers and librarians, so everything has been vetted. Cons—clicking on one of the buttons does not necessarily yield more options or suggestions, as it might appear at first site. Still, a good site for elementary students to use.
Image result for kidzsearch This site has a section to explore, which I like. I also LOVE that there is a section on “boolify” that a teacher can use to teach students to use boolian commands. They drag and drop what they want at the top, and it appears in the search box the way they would type it into a search engine. There are also suggested site. Cons—I haven’t found any. I love this site! I think this is one that kiddos could explore and play on when they aren’t using the search features.

10/7/15 I created a work mat with five qr codes that lead to all of the search sites I mentioned above, plus table tents with one qr code each for all five. I use them for easy access when we research. Download it for FREE from my Teachers Pay Teachers store by clicking on the picture:

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