Create Customised Resource Collections with Gooru

Gooru is a search engine you won’t want to miss if you are a Science, Math or Social Sciences teacher. It is free to use and allows teachers to create customised ‘play-lists’ of resources for their students. Gooru’s library of resources is extensive, vetted by learning professionals and includes videos, games, interactive items, texts and quizzes.
Once registered, creating your own ‘play-list’ or ‘Collection’ is an easy search, drag and drop process. Teachers will also appreciate professional touches such as the ability to include key vocabulary and learning objectives in the collection overview, and being able to add voice narration to direct students or highlight points within the collection.
The collaborative nature of the site allows teachers to use and adapt collections that other professionals have created and shared. Initially, any collections you create will default to a private setting, but once the quality of the content has been checked by the site’s experts (they are stringent about inappropriate content), Gooru encourages users to share; it is part of the growing OER (Open Education Resources) movement.

Students need to register to access collections and resources too, but are not able to create content or edit unless collaborator status is shared with them.

Perhaps the most appealing feature of all is Gooru’s ‘smart quizzes’. Students can test their understanding as they learn via enriched quizzes that can offer hints and explanations during the process. Once a quiz is taken, students receive feedback, including suggestions for further resources to enhance their understanding if needed.

Gooru is currently in beta so feedback and suggestions are welcome as they further improve the site. The website promises:

Our machine learning experts are working hard to develop and improve our algorithms and performance and deliver a truly personalized and adaptive learning experience.

Sounds like things will even get better.


Test your search skills: A Google a day

A Google a Day

Whether we like it or not, for many students (and adults) the first step in any research task is to visit Google. There are many great resources that can be used to teach students about creating more specific, powerful searches, such as Google Inside Search which guides you through some advanced search functions.

Once students read these tips, they need some way to apply their knowledge to specific tasks. The website A Google a Day provides a question each day which can be solved using a search engine.  A timer runs while you search for the solution, and you can also click on a series of clues which will step you through the search process. For those who are completely stumped, the answer can be provided along with an explanation of how to find it online. The questions can vary in quality, but there are enough good ones in the archive to test out your searching skills.  Click the arrows at the bottom of the frame to see previous questions.

Interestingly, one of the problems with the site comes due to its popularity. You’ll often find that when you search for older answers the top results will be pages linking to blogs about A Google a Day. This might lead to a discussion about how search engines like Google actually index the web.  One possible solution might be to develop your own questions for students to solve. Have a read through the archive to get some ideas about what works and which questions are less effective.

Sweet search

This is an incredibly useful search engines for teachers to use with students at every level. In fact it is more than once search engine, as you can see in this screenshot:

Screen shot 2010-08-24 at 7.16.42 AM

Sweet search has been developed carefully:  “It searches only the 35,000 Web sites that our staff of research experts and librarians and teachers have evaluated and approved when creating the content on findingDulcinea. We constantly evaluate our search results and “fine-tune” them”.

Their blog post explains even more:

SweetSearch is the product of 100,000+ hours of research that went into creating findingDulcinea’s 700+ Web Guides and thousands of articles. This content links to tens of thousands of Web sites that have been evaluated and deemed reliable by our research experts and librarian and teacher consultants (for a bevy of reviews of findingDulcinea and SweetSearch from top educators, see our media kit; or get a widget for SweetSearch, so you can embed it on your school Web site.).

For younger learners, we’ve recently introduced a beta version of SweetSearch4Me, which is the only search engine that prominently ranks high quality Websites created for elementary (primary) school students, and mixes them with accessible primary source sites. Please send feedback on SweetSearch4Me to so we can fully launch it with your input in September.

Sweet search also has a terrific page for school librarians.

Screen shot 2010-08-24 at 7.29.54 AM

This page has information on:

  • research guides
  • tips for better research
  • news of the day
  • improving research habits and more.

This site comes highly recommended from educators globally. However, as always, check it out first to see if it suits your needs.

Alan November: effective searching

I recently attended a workshop by Alan November that focused on ways to teach students effective internet use and searching. Alan had some interesting tips and tricks that readers may find useful (I certainly did!)

  • Wikipedia puts title of article at end of URL, so there is more chance of it coming up first in a Google search.
  • After that (as long as there has not been a payment for boosting results), it’s the number of links from other sites that affects ranking.
  • Alta vista is a good search engine for finding links coming in.

How do you find the author/publisher of a website?

  • Go to where you can look up domain name registration application.
  • On the web, you often don’t know if something is true or not. We need to teach students tools for cross referencing and validating information. More information and examples here.

Websites to validate

  • Have a look at some of these websites. Purposely show this to help students make meaning.

How to read a web address

  • Chop off end of web address to go to root site, sounds easy enough but more information on teaching this here.
  • See which organisations use which domains:
  • Go to alta vista link:web address
  • Britain schools higher ed
  • Url:k12 to see which schools are using it. great ideas on how other teachers are using it.

The history of websites and leaving your digital footprint even when you think it’s been erased.

  • Teach students not to ruin the rest of their life today! finds sites even when sites have been deleted. Copy URL, delete http:// then paste, click ‘take me back’. Archive also shows website changes over time. Can show origins of websites. See here for more information.
  • ~ means personal subdirectory, which is someone’s own opinion.
  • US Freedom of speech protects all sites, even if they are malicious ones.
  • .org in the US is not designated for non profit sites.
  • Anyone can apply for a .org

There is a grammar, syntax and punctuation to the web. Once you know the rules, it is a different animal. Every teacher should teach and these reinforce skills.

Wolfram alpha answers all maths and chemistry problems. Maths and science teachers may like to reassess homework they set because of this.


A totally different way to search than Google, Stumpedia is

a personalized social & real-time collaborative discovery tool that relies on human participation to index, organize, and review the world wide web.  Stumpedia does not depend on automated bots, proprietary algorithms, or company insiders to make decisions on the relevance and ranking of search results.


Stumpedia allows you to submit, rank, and personalize your own search results. The relevance of search results are unique to you and are determined by your social graph in the following order: you, your social network friends, friends-of-friends, your followers, and the overall community. A spammer who submits and ranks irrelevant results can be easily identified, blocked, and unfollowed to prevent your search results from being polluted. Users can personalize and customize search results by re-ranking, deleting, adding, and commenting on search results. This data is used to determine the relevancy of search results for the people in your social graph and vice versa.

Upon search results being displayed, users are given the option to

  • like
  • save
  • share
  • dislike
  • bury

specific results. If users click on the appropriate buttons, this then changes the ranking of search results.

Wikipedia defines Stumpedia as

a social project and community effort that relies on human participation and folksonomies to index, organize, and review the world wide web. The aim is to help build Natural Language Processing and the Semantic Web.

Certainly an interesting project and would be useful to show to students just how public opinion can change the way information is presented.


Hakia is a search engine that prides itself on bringing credible websites to the searcher. Librarians are able to submit websites they wish to recommend to Hakia. By adding non commercial, peer reviewed websites, search results are smaller, but more reliable. Currently the credible searches only cover the topics of health and environment. 

Suggest a credible website

Suggest a credible website

Hakia also has a tool that enables searchers to compare a Google search and a Hakia search side-by-side. Although results can vary depending on the actual search, it’s certainly worth a try.

Hakia and Google compared

Hakia and Google compared

Perhaps we should all consider spending some time to help make Hakia bigger and more popular by submitting credible websites and encouraging students to use Hakia’s search engine. Collectively, we have the power to positively influence the way students do Internet searches.

Twitter – a quick communication tool

Twitter is a ‘micro-blogging’ tool that lets you send and receive short messages. Tweets, or messages, contain no more than 140 characters including punctuation and spaces, so messages have to be short and sweet. The information you send in your message is meant to answer the question, ‘What are you doing?’ 


You can invite contacts to join Twitter and you can decide who can read your updates. Your updates can be displayed on your Twitter homepage, sent via email, instant messaging, RSS, (SMS but this is currently only available in USA, Canada, UK and India) and to Facebook pages. You can also set Twitter to ‘quiet time’ when you don’t want to be interrupted, or you’re just sick of being able to be contacted all of the time.

Twitter could be a useful tool for colleagues working together in different locations, or for students collaborating on projects.  Other applications such as authoring tools, mashups, search engines and voice to Twitter (Twitterfone) have been developed to complement Twitter. However, not all of the applications have been devised by the people behind Twitter. The Twitter Blog is a useful tool that lists a range of Twitter applications. The blog keeps up to date with what’s hot and it also provides a dictionary of ‘Twitter lingo’.

Search me!

Have you seen this new search engine called Search me? Although it is still being developed, you can select what type of search you want (in this case, the search was for George Clooney.) The offering to select from was: movies, US news, motorcycles, politicians or you can ‘search all’. Your results are then shown as a number of thumbnails (although somewhat larger). To enter the site you like the look of, just click on the ‘thumbnail’.

It would be interesting to do a side by side comparison search with Google and Search me and take note of the difference in results.