Sunday, July 04, 2010

Do "student-friendly" search engines make a librarian's job easier?

Sweet Search - A Search Engine for Students

From Sweet Search : This "is a search engine that searches only the sites that have been reviewed and approved by a team of librarians, teachers, and research experts. In all there are 35,000 websites that have been reviewed and approved by Sweet Search. "
Sweet Search can be used by visiting the site directly or you can embed Sweet Search widgets into your blog or website. I took a look at the librarian selected sites which were excellent. I like the idea of embedding their widgets easily into our Libguides. This sounds great!

But wait a minute,I can't help but feel that there is essentially a big "shortcut" here that could leave long negative long-terms consequences for teaching search strategies.  If we exclusively use these type of tools when are we able to introduce concepts of critical thinking and web site evaluation?

Professor Howard Rheingold has developed a wiki called  Critical Thinking Compendium where there are already dozens of resources linked.

Join this wiki to browse resources and contribute some of your own.  Here's a sampling:

Here is Howard Rheingold's Diigo feed for the tag "critical thinking"
Hrheingold's Favorite Links on critical_thinking from Diigo

Here is Howard Rheingold's Diigo feed for the tag "crap detection"
Hrheingold's Favorite Links on crap_detection from Diigo Don't get me wrong, I think I will definitely be using some Sweet Search widgets in the future.  But we cannot afford to outsource our role as teachers of digital literacy.

1 comment:

Mark Moran said...

Hello Judy, thank you for this kind review of Sweet Search, which my company created. When you and I were in high school, we did our research in the school library, where we were pointed to all the credible resources on a topic and asked to decide which ones were relevant to our particular research. This is what Sweet Search does for students on the Internet. Students still must review a list of links, but they can focus which sources are the best from a list of good sources. With general search engines, students usually evaluate the first 5-10 links only to learn that many of them are not usable, which causes frustration and often leads them to focusing on the first two links. That's a good occasional exercise, just like an athlete may train by running burdened with a weight vest on to stress him and cause him to build extra muscle. To take your point to its extreme, will students learn best when they use a really bad search engine? When it's game time, students should, like athletes, use the best tools available to help them succeed. Here is my blog post explaining why I think SweetSearch is the best search engine for student use.

Incidentally, we've also created an outstanding Web search tutorial, which we will update from time to time and create lesson plans and videos for; it can be found at

Additionally, we've created a version of SweetSearch that prominently features great sites for young learners; see it at