Monday, November 17, 2008

Seek and ye shall find

I was listening to KUOW on the way to work today and I heard a piece on a basic education funding study for the State of Washington. This blog isn't about that study, it's about finding that study.

So when I tossed the search terms into Google I started getting a lot of results from a lot of places. I had a few keywords that helped me refine the search, but there were still a number that were not relevant. Then I remembered that I could build my own custom search engine with Google. A custom search engine allows you define one or many specific web sites or web pages to be searched.

So I created a search called Washington State Education that pointed to a handful of state education sites such as the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges ( and the Higher Education Coordinating Board ( Now when I enter those same search terms into the custom search box, only results from the specified sites are included. Much more relevant because I'm not interested in Ohio's basic education funding initiatives.

You can also include the search as a widget/gadget in your iGoogle page or in a blog. If you scroll down the left-hand side of the Advisory Bored you will eventually reach a search box. That uses the same exact custom search engine as if you went to the link I specified above. Cool, no.

What can you do with a custom search engine? Well quite a lot I would guess. Google lists some featured sites here. A couple of my favorites are:
  1. Expanding Your Horizons which is an engine for girls, teachers and parents to explore science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). This engine includes over 140 different sites.
  2. CS Curriculum Search will help computer science (CS) faculty find teaching resources that other CS faculty has published to the web.
  3. Mrs. Gray's Research Sites for Kids contains a list of kid-safe sites that middle school teacher Lucy Gray can use with her students in Chicago (and now you can use with your students too).
You will notice in the final site that there are contributors listed. What this means is that while Mrs. Gray created the site, she has allow some people to help suggest new sites to add to the custom search engine. So, for instance, history teachers in the Mukilteo SD could band together to build a history search engine even if they are spread out across the district.

My one other custom search site is called Puget Sound News Sources. It includes 12 local media entities, including the Everett Herald. So if you want to know what local media is saying about you, give it a try.

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hula betty said...

how brilliant is that... google figured out a way to get all of us to build search tools that will be used to improve their search engine. And we are happy to do it...

That is how you give your customer what they want (better individual results) and in turn get what you want (search engine trainer to improve everyone's search).