Thing 10: Search Tools Ninja

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Topics covered in this lesson*: 

  • Variety of search tools beyond Google & Bing.
  • Search tips and tricks.

* Remember you don’t have to explore everything in this lesson. Pick what interests you most. 


Even if you’ve been searching the Internet since the days of Gopher, Veronica, Archie and Jughead (Hello 1992!), there are always new search tools, tips and tricks to learn. And it’s hard to keep up. So here’s your chance to dig deeper into tools you know well or branch out into some new ones.


What web search tools do you recommend to your students? Sure, many of us seem to turn to the behemoth search tools like Google or Bing first. And certainly,  teaching students the best ways to use Google and Bing is really useful and important. But there are other search tools that can help in any number of circumstances. Folks from our Cool Tools for School Facebook group suggested some of the following selections. Have other tools to share? Leave a comment below and/or write about them in your blog post.

  • DuckDuckGo: A search engine that doesn’t track what you’re searching. Try comparing results from DuckDuckGo and other search engines that track what you’re searching and customize the results.
  • Startpage – Uses Google search results, but removes trackers and logging. You won’t see the things you’re searching for showing up as ads on your Facebook page. Settings page has options for family filters.  Since your data isn’t stored, you’re more likely to get out of your “filter bubble!”
  • SweetSearch – A google custom search engine built for students. Also include SweetSearch History and SweetSearch News – both great tools for students.
  • Million Short – “Million Short is an experimental web search engine (really, more of a discovery engine) that allows you to REMOVE the top million (or top 100k, 10k, 1k, 100) sites from the results set. We thought it might be somewhat interesting to see what we’d find if we just removed an entire slice of the web.” Note that it’s removing results from the web’s biggest site, not removing the top million hits in a search.
  • Carrot Search – This is a “results clustering” search tool, search results are clustered together into related sub-categories to help you focus your search. Results are limited, but it’s really handy for finding related topics to expand or focus a search strategy. Helpful to help develop keyword strategies to use in other search tools.
    • TIP: From your search results page, select the Clusters or Foam Tree options for visual display of results and concepts.
  • Yippy – Another metasearch engine with clustering features. Metasearch tools search through multiple search engines to retrieve results. LIke CarrotSesarch, it can help you find related topics and build a search strategy.
  • Build Your Own! Google Custom Search: Set up a search box that covers just the sites you think are useful for a particular topic. You could easily collaborate with others and build really substantial custom searches for specific topics. The search box can be embedded on your web pages.
  • LibGuides: Costs money to build your own resource guides. But don’t overlook FREE access to a treasure trove of search guides that others have created. Take advantage of the expertise of your colleagues!
  • Listen Notes – Terrific new search tool for podcasts. Easy to search for individual podcast episodes or podcast series. Save episodes to listen to later. Includes links to subscribe via iTunes or RSS.  Create audio clips, download audio, and more.
  • Internet Archive Wayback Machine – The Internet Archive saves older versions of web pages. If you want to see what a web page used to look like, this is the place. Also handy for finding pages that no longer exist on the web, like many of the US federal government pages that have been deleted in the past few years.

Younger Students

  • KidRex: KidRex uses Google’s Custom Search technology and Safe Search filtering to search the web. But it searches the broader web, not a a hand-picked selection of web sites. More information about KidRex.
  • Choosito – Search the web or the Choosito library of content. Limit search by reading level and/or subject area. Worth a look if you work with younger children. Free/fee options.
  • PebbleGo – A popular search tool for PreK – 3rd grade. ($ commercial service)



OPTIONS: As usual, there are lots of options. Pick an option (or two!) from the following list or strike out on your own and explore something related to this topic.

  1. Search Tools: Pick a tool you don’t know well and explore it. Is it appropriate for the students you work with?
  2. Custom Search: Create a Google Custom Search and share it with the rest of us! You may not be able to embed it on your Cool Tools blog, but you can link to it.
  3. Compare: Pick a topic and compare the results across several tools. What differences did you notice? Which results were better?
  4. Curate: Create a new subject guide for an upcoming research project or one of your interests. Use a variety of search engines to find your content. Use your favorite curation tool. Don’t have one? Check out Thing 8: Curation.
  5. Power Searching with Google: Work through some of the Google search lessons and amp up your Google skills.


  • Write & publish your blog post.
  • Copy the URL (webpage address) for your post.
  • Return to your Google Classroom, find the assignment page for the lesson you just completed and follow the directions for turning in and sharing your work.

*Only for students participating in the workshop for PD credit hours through the Google Classroom.

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