Starting the search for information

It’s the start of a new term, which for many will mean beginning a new topic of study in class. Students may have no prior knowledge on the topic, so will be starting from scratch researching.

Beginning to look for information online is a daunting task! There is so much out there, presented in so many different ways. Often, the response is to just ‘google’ it. How useful is this though? How much do we gain from this? How much does a grade three student? A search for the keyword ‘London’ (considering is is the Olympic term) returns 2.1 BILLION results. Is this going to be a useful starting point for discussing London and the Olympic Games (which return a mere 287 million results)?

It is important to use appropriate keywords when searching, as this will greatly reduce the number of results and start to identify what you want (for example, adding ‘Olympics 2012′ to London reduces your results by more than half). It’s also important to consider the best took to search though. Here are three tools you may like to try as a different way of beginning to look for information this term.


My favourite new tool, which I think has great possibilities especially for students in primary classes. Qwiki uses a variety of sources, including Flickr and Wikipedia, to prepare a short, animated multimedia presentation on a topic. How much more interesting to use. For those students still developing their reading skills, how much easier is it to understand? Here is a Qwiki on London:

On the Qwiki website, you will notice there are related Qwikis for this topic as well. A great point for further research. Remember however, that this is just a starting point. Hopefully something that you see in the qwiki will get you started on the track to further information.

Tag Galaxy

Why does all research have to be text based? Tag Galaxy uses photos collected from Flickr to produce a photographic representation of the topic you’re investigating. Here’s some of London:

The globe is interactive so can be turned, regenerated and enlarged. How could these photos provide discussion and ideas for further research? What do they tell us about our topic without reading a word?

Simple English Wikipedia

Finding resources online at an appropriate reading level for primary students can be tricky. Many of us use Wikipedia as a starting point for research, but the language used in the articles is well beyond many primary students. Enter Simple English Wikipedia:

SE Wikipedia is designed to be written and understood with a vocabulary of less than 1000 words. This is well within the grasp of most primary students. The articles, on the whole, usually contain less information on the main page, which is far less daunting. Here is a comparison of the SE Wikipedia article on London and the regular English Wikipedia article. This shows the first two paragraphs of each.

As with regular Wikipedia, each of the blue words represents a link. You can click on these links to find the article for that word, and more information. Many of the large words or nouns are articles themselves; a perfect way to develop meaning and vocabulary too.

Obviously, the article contains less information, although this won’t necessarily be relevant anyways for a primary student. If you want more detail though, you can visit the same article on English Wikipedia. There are links between the two on the left hand side under ‘languages’. (Maybe you have an ESL student who may benefit from reading the article in their native language!)

Do you have any other tools you use when looking for information onlin?

Have these tools worked for you?

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