SCISConnections

Customising Web searching for students

One school's ICT Services Manager, Scott Moller has created a site to assist students to search a growing database of Australian and international sources, including educational sites and EdNA curriculum resources.

Librarians today are faced with the challenge of assisting students to find appropriate and relevant information in an ever–expanding cyberspace. The free Google custom search engine – studysearch.com.au – has been developed in Australia to give results that are tuned for students and educators.

studysearch.com.au home page

studysearch.com.au home page

How does it work?

The search uses the power of Google combined with a growing database of educational websites. When a search is done, Google refers to our database of sites and emphasises them in the results, pushing 'better' content to the top.

Why was this site developed?

Many schools publish static lists of educational websites on their intranet or public website. These will often have a limited search function that is unable to index Microsoft Word ®, Microsoft Excel ® or PDF content. Subscription–based services that index public websites are a useful alternative; however, these come at a cost. By including these static lists, studysearch.com.au provides a facility for teachers and librarians to use the power of Google's search but have an influence on the results returned.

What sites are listed?

The studysearch.com.au can choose to emphasise an entire website, a page of a website, or to dynamically extract and include all the sites a web page links to. The indexed content comes from a number of sources including Australian and international government and semi–government sites, EdNA curriculum resources, TeacherTube, and reviewed national and international educational sites. Teachers and librarians are encouraged to submit useful websites using a form on the studysearch.com.au site. Submitted sites are evaluated and included in the index (as a general rule, commercial sites will not be included unless they provide a suitable level of free educational content).

An added level of protection

Results on studysearch.com.au are automatically filtered by Google SafeSearch. This provides a level of protection from adult or sexually explicit content. (SafeSearch is not designed to replace school or home Internet content filters – appropriate Internet safeguards should still be used).

Internet content filtering

Many schools operate within an environment covered by an Internet content filter. This can provide challenges for both students and educators when researching more sensitive topics in secondary school. There is anecdotal evidence to suggest that studysearch.com.au produces results that are more likely to be 'content filter friendly' under certain topic areas. This is due to the inclusion of many trusted educational Internet sources that content filters will allow.

The future

Through collaboration with teachers and librarians, studysearch.com.au will continue to provide a free educational search engine for students and educators. Feedback is essential for the future development of studysearch.com.au and users are encouraged to contact the site developer with any questions, comments or site submissions.

Scott Moller
ICT Services Manager
Cannon Hill Anglican College, Brisbane