Home Digital Literacy Teaching Students How to Search

Teaching Students How to Search

by Lori Gracey

One of the most important skills educators can help students acquire is the ability to be a true lifelong learner. With the average student currently in school having five difference careers (not jobs, completely different careers!) during his/her lifetime, the ability to constantly re-learn and embrace new knowledge and skills will be crucial.

This goes beyond the ability to simply “Google” a quick answer, but includes knowing if the answer given is valid or not. Students must be able to judge what is returned to them after a search. Unfortunately, the only way to learn this is to practice.

Start with SweetSearch

To help secondary students see what “good” search returns look like, have them use SweetSearch. This tool searches only 35,000 websites that have been vetted by research experts, librarians, teachers to ensure that the information found there is reliable and valid. Although there are a limited number of websites that it references, it can return a large number of results from those websites which are educational in nature and “packed” with information.

Accessing the menu button in the top left corner of the screen will provide them with SweetSearch 2Day, a hand-picked compilation of educational resources, learning tips, articles, historical events, and biographies, gathered from the web and written by the SweetSearch team. There are also two buttons below the search bar that will help them hone in on news or history information.


Once they’ve used Sweet Search for a while, then ask students to do the same search using Google, their search engine of choice, and to compare the results that they get for the same search on both sites. Talk about why some websites are ranked higher in the search return with Google and what this might mean for the validity of the information.

Move on to Socratic by Google

When students fully understand how to pick out valid search results, then introduce them to Socratic by Google. This free app (currently available for iOS, but coming soon for Android) is designed to help students with homework, not just in completing it, but also in understanding it. When using Socratic, students log in with their Google accounts.

The app allows students to ask questions via their voices, by typing, or by taking photos of questions, worksheets, or textbook pages, and get answers based on educational content that the app finds on the web. Using artificial intelligence, the app looks at a student’s question and automatically identifies the relevant underlying concepts so that it can provide lessons that can help break down concepts into smaller increments. So it’s not just about giving them the answer.

Socrative also offers subject guides to help students studying for tests, containing visual explanations on 1,000 higher education and high school topics. Socratic presents concept overviews, explanatory steps, video walkthroughs, and more to help them better understand the topic. For math problems, Socratic provides direct links to step-by-step explanations from sites like Cymath and WolframAlpha.


It’s important to note that any search engine or tool, regardless of whether it is designed for students or not, may return inappropriate websites and/or content. So encourage students always to be aware of this when doing any search.

Help your secondary students become better at searching for and finding answers and learning new things by teaching them how best to use and evaluate search tools.

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1 comment

Ester A. BerRios October 8, 2019 - 2:00 am

Thank you for a needed approach to research


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