Sunday, March 14, 2010

Custom Search Engine

Sometimes a Google Search can be overwhelming... imaginge how overwhelming it must be for young students who may have lower reading abilities, or a less developed ability to determine if a source is credible. Google has a tool that is great for teachers called Custom Search. The great thing about Custom Search is YOU can define the possible sites that your student could end up at. Most teachers have a whole list of websites that are helpful to students. Using Custom Search, you can build a search engine that will only search the sites you identify. Best of all, it's not very hard to do! Here's how:




  • First, identify a list of websites that you would like to be included. These could include kid-friendly research site, government sites, whatever you feel is appropriate for your students to visit. Make the list as long as you would like. What works best for me is to make text file with all of the links as I come across them.
  • Go to http://www.google.com/cse/
  • Click "Create a Custom Search Engine"
  • Give your search engine a name and a description.
  • Choose whether you ONLY want th sites you selected to be displayed, or only if you want them emphasized in the list. Most elementary teachers will probably want to select "Only sites I select."
  • For "Sites to search" type in (or copy and paste) all of the websites you would like included, one per line.
  • You can use the Standard edition for free. Business edition is available for a charter (it shows no ads). Standard Edition means you don't have to register. Choose business means you need to register your use. It is available for free for schools, but I'm not sure how to go through that process, sorry).
  • Make sure you select that you have read and agree to the terms of service.
  • Click Next.
  • The next page gives you the opportunity to test your search if you would like. If you are diong the free version, you also have the option here to send yourself a link to the search.
  • Click "Finish" (or "Next" if you're using business)
  • If you choose Business you will be asked to identify yourself and business and choose your payment methods. 
  • Now your search engine is ready to use! This page will list any and all search engines you have setup.
  • From this page you can get into your control panel to change yoru settings, or even look at statistics of how often your search is being used.
  • Click on the name of the your search and you are at your search engine.
  • The best way to make this search engine available to your students is to include it in your blog.
  • You can copy the search box to put on your own website by clicking on "Add this search engine to your blog or webpage"
  • Choose the way you want your search to look, and then click on "Get the Code" Then below you will have a box of HTML language, copy the box, and paste it into the "HTML" part of your blog or site, just like you would embed other objects.


Another way you can share this search once you have created it is to use a service like "Bit.ly" or "tr.im" to make your URL shorter. Just copy the address and go to either: http://bit.ly or http://tr.im
Paste your address into the address bar, and click "Shorten" whatever action button the site is using.
You then have a website address that is shorted and easier to give to your students.

That's it! There are lots of steps in this process, but once you do it once, it is not hard, and allows you to provide a SAFE search for your students where you can control the types of information your students are seeing, especially helpful with younger students when they are researching on the internet.

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