Education Search Engines Help Teachers Show Children How to Use the Internet

By Rob Klindt

One of the most important tasks for K-12 teachers is deciding the best ways for students to search the Internet. While the big search engines like Google, Bing or Yahoo are wildly popular among adults, they may not be the best choice for the classroom.

The voluminous and often unfiltered results returned by the big search engines can overwhelm some students. In addition, some search results may point to adult content that’s unsafe for children or commercial content that’s irrelevant to their education.

The best educational search engines deliver narrow, focused results that have a connection to classroom studies. Fortunately, several smaller search engines and websites have been designed with education and young people in mind. These sites have several common characteristics:

  • A clear, simple interface
  • Easy indexing
  • Education focus
  • Quick, safe and kid-friendly results

Educational search engines filter out adult material, commercial content and links unrelated to classroom issues or academic research. In addition, these search engines typically point to resources reviewed by professional educators, librarians and others to ensure their quality. These are some of the more popular educational search engines for K-12 students:

Kindergarten and elementary school

Bright colors, animated icons and a simple interface keep younger students engaged while they learn basic computer and keyboarding skills.

  • KidsClick! Designed by library professionals, this search engine returns kid-friendly results using a colorful and easy-to-read interface. Users can search by keyword, category or alphabetical subject. Maintained by the Kent State University School of Library and Information Science. Free.
    Visit the site
  • Fact Monster is an excellent example of an educational search engineFact Monster. This all-in-one reference site from the editors of Information Please includes an almanac, dictionary and encyclopedia with results tailored to children ages 8-14. Also included are educational games and quizzes, a homework center and world geography guide. Free.
    Visit the site
  • MyMunka. Built with online safety in mind, this search engine delivers results appropriate for K-6 students. Users also can browse and share thousands of digital flashcards and learning aids on various subjects. Free.
    Visit the site

Middle school

Teachers and students will appreciate the varied search options and categories that make these websites a good fit for sixth- through eighth-graders.

  • Awesome Library. This site boasts a collection of more than 37,000 links to websites carefully reviewed by educators, librarians and others. Topics in this privately held database include the arts, science, literature, mathematics, English and technology. Free.
    Visit the site
  • Great Websites for Kids. Sponsored by the Association for Library Service to Children, this website is divided into numerous search topics including history, the arts, literature, mathematics, science and more.  Search results are reviewed by a committee of educators and library professionals. Kids up to age 14. Free.
    Visit the site
  • Billed as “a safe place to learn and play,” this federal government-run website streamlines the search process for K-8 students and provides results on academic subjects, including art, science, reading, history and mathematics. Educational games, videos and quizzes round out the activities. Free.
    Visit the site

High school

The ability to perform more focused searches, see results from a wider spectrum of sources, and download documents and multimedia for classroom use make these websites ideal for high school students.

  • Digital Public Library of America. Students will find a mountain of free digital resources, including historical documents, photos and multimedia from libraries, archives and museums throughout the world. These items can be used to illustrate and build interactive classroom projects and exhibits. Free.
    Visit the site
  • iSEEK. This search engine targets results from trusted online resources, including universities, government agencies and established noncommercial providers. It’s good for student research papers or class presentations. Resources are reviewed by educators in all fields. Free.
    Visit the site
  • Sweet Search. This website quickly provides relevant academic search results from a list of credible resources evaluated by educators and research experts. High-ranking search results come from the Library of Congress, the Smithsonian and various universities. Free.
    Visit the site
  • Wolfram Alpha. Focusing on mathematics, this unusual website bills itself as a computational knowledge engine. Students can submit queries and computation requests for algebra, geometry, calculus and related topics. Tools include the ability to upload images, data and files for calculation. Free.
    Visit the site 

Developing students’ search literacy should be a priority in today’s classrooms. Teachers play an important role in making sure students learn the right strategies for finding and evaluating information on the Web. These skills will help students establish knowledge during their academic careers that will sustain them in the global workforce of the 21st century.