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Tech Tuesday #5

Google Custom Search Engines



I ❤ Google!  I love Google forms, Google docs, Google doodles, Google Scholar…the list goes on and on.  And, I have a furvent longing to one day attend Google Teacher Academy, if I could ever get around to making that dang application video…Today, I love Google Custom Search Engine (google.com/cse).  Let me tell you why:

Yesterday, I caught wind of a little research project being conducted in our English II pre-AP classes over a little book called Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe.  The teacher graciously allowed me to take a look at the assigment handout, which led students through a webquest, exploring various topics relating to Nigerian history, culture, and the author himself.  On the assignment page, specific websites were listed for students to access depending on their topic.  I saw a library-infiltration opportunity and pounced!

(Time-out for a little soap-box on teaching students information and research skills.)




Used with permission from the creator, Sean Gallo, http://www.seangallo.com

 You may or may not be familiar with the addage, “How do you eat an elephant?…One bite at a time!”  This is the image that comes to mind when I am asked, “How do you teach high school students to be critical consumers of information, digital citizens, and researchers?”  One “byte” at a time, friends.

More often than not, research seems to be a “stop-and-do” unit of exhausting, lengthy days in the library or computer lab.  Students and teachers spend days and weeks pounding away at research topics, meeting minimal requirements for number of sources, note cards, direct quotes, working toward completing a checklist of research tasks rather than engaging in transformative, authentic inquiry.  Rather than pushing research back and back until afetr “the test” or reserving it until May when we’re eager to mark the days off of our calendars until summer, my proposition is this:  let’s teach narrow and in depth–one bite at a time. 

Google Custom Searches allow us to streamline one part of the inquiry process (exploring and searching) so that students can dig deeper into another part of the inquiry process.  Here’s what you can do as a teacher or librarian to help “cut the meat” for our young researchers:

2.  Select “Create New Search Engine”

3.  Give your search engine a title, description, and copy and paste websites that you have pre-selected as appropriate, credible sources for students to explore the topic in depth.

You can choose various formats and looks for your search engine, turn off the advertisements since you are using it for educational purposes, keep track of analytics (statistics that show usage), and even embed the CSE into a blog or web page.  If you don’t want to embed, you can copy and paste the direct link to share with students. 


Sometimes we need to be a Momma-bird and do a little “pre-chewing” for our students to ease digestion (tired of the zoological metaphors???  Got it.)  We can support students’ inquiry by providing them pre-selected sources so that they can then dedicate their attention to narrowing the focus of their inquiry, effective note-taking, documenting sources, synthesizing information, or presenting their understandings about the topic. 

Would we want to give them a CSE everytime they do research?  No, they need to learn to take the first bite, but perhaps we give them support in another area instead.  Once they have all the smaller pieces mastered, then they can fully engage in the transformative power of inquiry-driven research…and fully enjoy the elephant in its entirety (couldn’t help it that one).

Talk to your librarian about collaborating to create Google Custom Search Engines for your next research adventure!  Take a look at the library page I created to support students as they conducted research relating to Things Fall Apart.  Special thanks to Christina Salcido and Erin Mathews for allowing me to crash their research party 🙂

Sneak peak for next week’s Tech Tuesday blog:  Social bookmarking for student collaboration…Pinterest, Diigo, and Delicious

Check out some CSEs that I’ve created for various inquiry units: