Review by Leslie Crenna, Common Sense Education | Updated January 2013
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Google Search Mobile App

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Easy searching could use kid-friendly filters

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Grades
6-12 This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
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Pros: Students can learn essential information-age skills like how to ask questions and use relevant search terms.

Cons: Inappropriate content is still accessible despite filtering, especially with slightly more creative searches.

Bottom Line: Google Search is a must-have app for teachers, but students who use it in the classroom will need strict filters.

How can teachers use the most popular search engine in the world? Let us count the ways. In addition to fact-finding and fact-checking missions across an endless range of subjects -- history and world cultures, social studies, sciences, art, math -- you can teach your students how to best find the information that's most useful to them by asking questions in the right way and weeding out the reliable sources from the unreliable.

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The experience of the Google Search app is very much like the browser. The interface is easy to read, and voice recognition is quite accurate. Wikipedia definitions display directly with results, and Google Maps inserts relevant (albeit usually commercial) images.

Google Search SafeSearch offers three levels of filtering: none, moderate (the default), and strict, which blocks some of the most egregious terms and images. It also lets you deselect your location for search results and other Google services. To filter, go to Settings at the bottom of any search page (although not the main menu). Under SafeSearch Filters, select Strict, then scroll to the bottom and tap the Save button. You can also block up to 500 sites via Manage Blocked Sites and your Gmail account.

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Google Search has limitless potential but requires vigilant adult guidance. Filtering and locational data blocking aren't sufficient, as inappropriate content in ads, videos, images, and text still get through with creative and persistent searching, and results for nearby restaurants come up just fine even when your location is disabled. It's important to know that although adults can lock filters for Web-based browsing, they apparently can't with the app version, which makes filtering useless for any student who knows how and wants to change the settings. Finally, consumerism opportunities are pervasive; the first item returned from a search is usually an ad.

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Overall Rating
3

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?
4

Spare and simple design very much like the browser version, relevant results, and lots of available resources for all interests.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?
3

While the experience is chock full of pedagogical opportunities, the app itself does not provide guidance in searching techniques, evaluating the source, digital citizenship, or critical thinking.

 

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?
3

The app is mostly intuitive, and the app includes links to help info for Google Search.


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