Dear Otto is an occasional column where I answer questions I get from readers about teaching tech. If you have a question, please complete the form below and I’ll answer it here. For your privacy, I use only first names.
Here’s a great question I got from a reader:
I am a computer lab teacher and teach grades 1-5. I can really use some advice from others. Do you have a good place for students to go and get images that are appropriate – I teach grades 1-5 and Google even with strict settings as well as MS Office clipart have some inappropriate images that come up from searches
I wrote a post about this almost a year ago. I appreciate that you’ve reminded me it’s time to revisit. This is harder than it should be. I use Google as a default because it is the safest of all the majors, not to say it’s 100% kid-safe. I spent quite a few hours one weekend checking out all of the kid-friendly child search engines (Sweet Search, KidSafe, QuinturaKids, Kigose, KidsClick, Ask Kids, KidRex, and more), but none did a good job filtering images. Content–yes, but images dried up to worthless for the needs of visual children.
So I went back to Google and tried their Safe Search settings. Normal Google search is set to moderate. For school-age children, they can easily be set to Strict (check out this video on how to do it).
So much of reliable sources in internet searches is the same as researching in the library. Pick:
- primary sources
- unbiased sources
- sources with the background and training required to understand and present information
Young students have difficulty with these rules. They work hard just to maneuver through a search engine, the links, the search bar and the address bar. They’re thrilled when they get hits, much less trying to distinguish what’s good from bad. How do they know if it’s a ‘primary source’ or not? How can they determine what’s ‘biased’ or not? Or who has enough training to be trusted?Wikipedia is a great example. It’s edited by the People, not PhDs, encyclopedias or primary sources, yet it usually pops up pretty close to the top of a search list and lots of kids think it’s the last word in reliability.
With that in mind, I’ve made the rules simple: Look at the extension. Start with that limitor. Here are the most popular extensions and how I rate them for usefulness:
Published by the government and non-military. As such, it should be unbiased, reliable.
Published by the government and military. Perfect for the topics that fit this category, i.e., wars, economics, etc.
Published by colleges and universities. Historically, focused on research, study, and education
U.S. non-profit organizations and others. They have a bias, but it shouldn’t be motivated by money
These four are the most trustworthy. The next three take subjective interpretation and a cursory investigation into their information:
networks, internet service providers, organizations–traditionally. Pretty much anyone can purchase a .net now
commercial site. Their goal is to sell something to you, so they are unabashedly biased. If you’re careful, you’ll still find good information here
These are foreign sites. Perfect for international and cultural research, but they will retain their nation’s bias and interpretation of events, just as American sites have ours.
Jacqui Murray has been teaching K-18 technology for 30 years. She is the editor/author of over a hundred tech ed resources including a K-12 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, K-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum. She is an adjunct professor in tech ed, Master Teacher, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice, CSTA presentation reviewer, freelance journalist on tech ed topics, contributor to NEA Today, and author of the tech thrillers, To Hunt a Sub and Twenty-four Days. You can find her resources at Structured Learning.