Do you let your kids use Google?

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I recently attended Pete & C, PA’s educational technology conference. It’s the fifth or sixth time I’ve attended. I typically find some interesting resources and enjoy connecting with members of my PLN and hearing about all of the great work they’re doing in schools.

So there I was, minding my own business and feeling genuinely grateful that the session presenter, Lexie Konsur, was being up front about copyright and fair use issues in education and not telling us we needed to use only 30 second clips of video and 100 words of text and spewing other fallacy-ridden copyright guidelines, when a participant raised her hand and proclaimed something like,

“We don’t allow our kids use Google to find information.”


She was talking about elementary students, of course, because it seems as though in our quest to shield and protect our youngest students from the perils of the intertubes we neglect to properly educate them about what resources are available via the web, how to access them safely and securely, what to do if they stumble upon something precarious, and how to think critically about the resources they’ve found and put them to good use.

I wanted to ask her, but didn’t, for fear of getting all riled up and embarrassing those sitting around me,

  • What DO you let your students use to find information online?
  • Is this how they find information when they’re not sitting in their classrooms?
  • Do they know what a search engine is? Do they know how it works?
  • Would they know what to do if, while browsing, they stumbled upon something harmful or dangerous?
  • Do they know how to manage digital resources and information to best support their research?
  • Do they know there are tools built into search engines like Google to help them narrow their searches productively?
  • What about YouTube? (I’m guessing that’s off limits, too. And, like, Wikipedia.)
  • How do YOU as the teacher find information online and conduct research? Would you be someone who could model your research efforts for students and demonstrate how to use Google appropriately and effectively?

This post is not meant to knock resource libraries like Discovery Ed or PA’s PowerLibrary – I love perusing those resources and know students find many valuable resources there while researching.

But not always. Sometimes the library is too small, the information can’t be found.

So, then, where do we send them to learn?

As we are making a move to Chromebooks next year in our primary classrooms, I’m genuinely interested to hear what others (at the elementary level, particularly) are doing to support students and their research. Thanks for reading!

3 Replies to “Do you let your kids use Google?”

  1. Lyn, I would not have been embarrassed had you raised these questions and I was sitting nearby. 🙂

    In a redo, maybe her response could have been, “I do not let my students use Google, until…” and then list all of the questions you pose here as prerequisites learners have to attain before exploring on Google. I appreciate her cautiousness, but I suspect that you are right in that the students have not been taught how to use search engines.

    One tool I encourage staff to use is Sweet Search. The search results are vetted for safety and appropriateness. It has a similar look and functionality to Google, but provides appropriate scaffolds as students venture into the world of online search/research.

  2. I understand both the concerns about Google and the fact that it is THE search engine that most folks rely on daily. I also have my kids start with Sweet Search. Then, we move to other search engines as I have opportunity to teach them ways to narrow, filter, and analyze their results. As always, we work within a limited amount of time so I have to balance the course content, digital literacy/citizenship, and research skill pieces. Starting with Sweet Search is a bit of a short cut, but I find it helps accomplish what we need to do.

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