You've heard of Google. You've no doubt heard of Yahoo, too. But do you really know how to use them? If you're frustrated by search engines that give you unrelated responses ... if you're spending too much time just looking for online resources ... if you're worried that students might access the wrong kind of information ... read on. This article and ensuing articles will help you make the best use of your time when searching for resources and information on the Web. Included: The best search engines and search directories on the Web.
Two basic kinds of search tools can help you find what you're looking for on the Web -- search engines and search directories.
A search engine does one job; it searches the Web to find Web pages that contain the information indicated by the key word or words (called a search string in technical jargon) you're interested in learning more about. (Remember that term "search string." We'll have more help for you about selecting and constructing search strings in an ensuing article.)
A search directory, on the other hand, while often including its own search engine, gathers together and carefully categorizes selected Web pages into an indexed list of topics.
Let's take a look at some of those search engines and directories -- some of the best, that is.
The most popular and, possibly, the purest search engine on the Web today is Google. As such, it deserves up front focus. In addition to providing fast access to billions of Web pages, Google has many special features to help you find exactly what you're looking for.
As far as students and teachers are concerned, some of the most useful Google tools are:
You also can search specifically for images in Google. The point to remember, though, is that search engines are not just for retrieving text; on the Web teachers and students also can find a treasure trove of multimedia resources on just about any subject under the sun.
AltaVista, like Google, is a pure search engine; it specializes in providing access to images, video, and audio. Type a search string in the box, check the button labeled Images, for example, and click Search. A selection of miniaturized picture files (called thumbprints) will be displayed. Just click a thumbprint to go to the full-sized image.
AltaVista automatically offers its filtering tool (called the Family Filter) when you're searching for Images, MP3/audio, or video -- but you need to make sure it's turned ON! That tool is exceptional in that it's password protected, thus enabling adults to protect children by preventing them from searching among uncensored Web sites.
The popular search directory Yahoo! offers two ways to access information on the Web. If you're interested in finding material about a certain subject, you can enter keywords and search the database just as you would with a search engine; or you can click a heading in Yahoo!'s index. At each level of the index, you'll find more specific categories to explore, until you locate just the information you need. In addition, Yahoo's advanced search option, like Google's, allows you to limit your search to Web sites that have been added to the database in the recent past, right up to the present day -- a handy tool if you need very current information.
Filtering is essential when you're searching for audio-visual material, especially in your classroom. All the search engines and directories mentioned above offer a filter, making it less likely users will access Web pages containing inappropriate material. That is important when you have children surfing the Web. However, filtering isn't the whole solution to inappropriate material on the Web; children need to be taught that the Web, like any risky place, should be approached with care. A later article in this series will take a closer look at the whole problem of inappropriate, objectionable material on the Web.
By Cara Bafile & Bernie Poole
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