Google Custom Search

One of the most exciting pieces of online reading comprehension is that students have the ability to construct their own "texts" as they read.  Students construct their own text depending on the keywords they chose...search engine results they select...which pages they select to read...and finally which elements of the page they chose to read and/or ignore. All of these factors...and more...add up to the information that your students read, and ultimately what they comprehend while reading online. As an educator we need to ask two major questions: 1) How can I support ALL of my learners while engaged in this process? 2) How can I teach, or share information with ALL students if they are each constructing their own text?

There are three basic strategies you can employ to facilitate young or novice online readers to successfully navigate successfully as they search and locate online information sources. Each of these strategies can also be made even more powerful through the use of teacher think-alouds...and letting your students know what you think when searching online.

1. The first of these strategies is the simplest and most powerful is to simply print out a list of search engine results. Go to the search engine of your choice (Google, Bing, Ask.com, Ask.com for Kids, Yippy [formerly Vivisimo, formerly Clusty]). Enter the keywords of your choice depending on your purpose. To help your students learn more about the importance of keywords, and which search engine you chose...print out the results of several variations. Then distribute the copies to students and discuss the results and differences in results. Have students hypothesize about where each link will take them. Have students explain what information do they look at in the search engine results page that helps them decide where to click.

2. The second strategy to use with students is to provide them with a hotlist of websites they can select their information from. This can be done by printing out a word document or sharing a word document using a thumb USB drive. On the word document list all of the websites (maybe including the URL) where you want students to find the information. Another scenario for sharing these sites is a little more tricky, but works much better is the use of social bookmarking sites (like Diigo), or bookmark syncing programs. Xmarks is an example of this type of program. Xmarks is a program that runs in Firefox or Chrome. It allows you to sync bookmarks across several browsers. As the teacher you could create one account for all of your machines, and have students receive the bookmarks using Xmarks.

3. The final strategy is through the use of Google Custom Search Engine (CSE). Creation of a Google CSE gives you the opportunity to scaffold all readers in an online space, and ensure that your students will be able to the information you wanted them to find. Basically you are limiting the results your students will obtain while searching. Depending on how much time you spend fine-tuning the CSE, you can provide a tool that will do everything but ensure that your students locate and read the information you want them to find. Google does provide detailed instructions on the ways you can tweak your CSE...and sometimes it's easier to start off building one "on the fly".

You can view the custom search engine created in the video at the bottom of the page HERE.




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