Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Google Tools Feature: The Custom Search Engine

Last week I had the great pleasure of presenting at the NYSAIS Teaching with Technology Conference here in New York City. My session, titled "How Free Tools From Google Can Streamline Your Workload and Energize Your Curriculum," was a greatest hits medley of some of my favorite tips from the Google Teacher Academy. I spent weeks refining my presentation, mining the Chrome Web Extensions store for my top 5 favorites, building sample You Tube playlists and experimenting with features of Google Drive in anticipation of the session at NYSAIS TWT.

I was lucky to have a full house, a room full of knowledgeable educators who came ready with Chrome installed on their laptops and, in many cases, a better-than-working knowledge of Drive. The first half of my session was devoted to Google Docs, and we had a lively conversation about the various uses of the app and different challenges teachers have encountered while using it. I was pleased that I was able to answer many questions, and even more excited to find my audience asking questions and offering solutions I myself had not thought of. It's a lucky day when the presenter leaves her session with a few new tips herself!

But the most exciting moment of the hour-long session, the moment when my audience literally gasped and exclaimed, "Ahhhh!" came as I walked them through the steps of building and using a Custom Google Search Engine. The steps involved in creating a Custom Search Engine (CSE) are easy and fairly straightforward and the benefits to classroom teachers are huge. Rather than send students off on a wild Google goose chase when researching online, the CSE allows teachers to generate a unique URL that, when visited, looks just like a typical Google search engine. However, this Custom Search Engine provides results only from those sites a teacher has pre-approved. Students no longer have to sort through endless lists of search results, trying to differentiate between respectable sources and illegitimate information. I was delighted to have shared such a valuable tool with an appreciative audience, and have already started augmenting my presentation for March 14th at the NY/NJ Google Apps for Education Summit -- the CSE is clearly a star deserving of more time and attention in my session!