It's never too early to teach students how to be good knowledge constructors. In fact, students should begin learning how to analyze and vet information on the internet as early as elementary school.
The ISTE Standards define "knowledge constructors" as students who critically curate a variety of resources using digital tools to construct knowledge, produce creative artifacts and make meaningful learning experiences for themselves and others. Indicator 3a of the Knowledge Constructor standard is the expectation that students plan and employ effective research strategies to locate information and other resources for their intellectual or creative pursuits.
You can begin teaching young students these skills by reinforcing searching strategies using kid friendly search engines.
Tips for using search engines
Teaching students which keywords to use and how to analyze search results will help them find better sources and think more critically about any information they find on the internet. Here are some tips to help when teaching students to conduct a search.
1. Choose your search terms carefully.
Be precise about what you are looking for, though you should use phrases and not full sentences.
2. Add more words to narrow a search.
Use Boolean searches to narrow your topic with quotation marks. There's a big difference between the search term “gopher” and “habitats of gophers in North America.”
3. Use synonyms.
If students can’t find what they're looking for, have them try keywords that mean the same thing or are related.
4. Search within a site.
Typing the word site: (with the colon) after your keyword and before a URL will tell Google to search within a specific website.
5. Add a minus sign.
Adding a minus sign immediately before any word, with no space in between, indicates that you don't want that word to appear in your search results. For example, "Saturn -cars" will give you information about the planet, not the automobile.
Kid-friendly search engines
Protecting students from unsafe and inappropriate content is the most important reason for using search engines made specifically for kids. Allowing your students to have the run of the web using a search engine for young students helps you, because information that gets through school filters might be appropriate for sixth graders but not second graders. Educators can explore these sites designed for the youngest internet users.
Safe Search Kids: This is a custom search engine using Google’s Safe Search features with additional filtering to block more potentially harmful material than if you simply use Google. It is fun, colorful and easy for kids to use.
Google Kid Search: This is another safe search engine powered by Google for Grades K-8. However, please be aware there are ads on this site.
Fact Monster: Fact Monster combines essential reference materials, fun facts and features, and homework help for kids.
Kidtopia: This site was created by librarians for elementary students.
Kiddle: Google created this visual search engine for kids. All results are vetted by editors.
Diana Fingal is ISTE's director of editorial content. This is an updated version of a post that originally post Dec. 28, 2018.