Review by Erin Brereton, Common Sense Education | Updated April 2013

SweetSearch

Search engine with filtered results leaves room for critical thinking

Common Sense says
Teachers say (4 Reviews)
$avg_user_learning_rating
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Grades
6-10 This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
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Pros: Students get help researching topics with access to safe, accurate source information.

Cons: The tool lacks a personalized experience, and it could do more to illustrate the difference between substantiated and unsubstantiated sites.

Bottom Line: SweetSearch supplies valid, reputable websites that can help kids learn about a variety of topics.

SweetSearch would be a great tool for middle school and early high school students to develop their research skills. The homepage offers a few links to additional resource sites: SweetSource4Me search engine for elementary school students; SweetSearch2Day with a daily selection of science, news, and more; a link for educators to classroom management resources; a page with more than 1,000 biographies; and a social studies page that lists helpful sites and guides.

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The homepage of this student search engine is pretty sparse: The search field is the main visual element. Kids simply type in a term and get a list of search results. The results pull from 35,000 websites proactively reviewed by research experts, librarians, and teachers to ensure they’re reliable information sources. Many are from educational institutions, government organizations, or publications like the New York Times. Some link to findingDulcinea.com, SweetSearch's sister site, which was also created to be a credible source for research. Results can still turn up opinion pieces and the occasionally irrelevant article, which allows students to continue developing critical thinking and research skills in this more protected online space.

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SweetSearch eliminates all the noise kids may come across on search sites like Yahoo and Google and provides a simple, generally safe way to accurately research topics. Kids may still stumble across some questionable content –- for example, CrimeLibrary.com pops up in crime-related searches. It’s hard to find much academic value in the site’s photo gallery of serial killer victims shortly before their deaths. However, for the most part, SweetSearch’s site recommendations are helpful and student-friendly.

Teachers can feel pretty confident that kids using SweetSearch will find valuable and relevant research materials for class activities and projects. Although it is something of a "walled garden," the results aren't filtered to the point of eliminating all need for critical thinking skills. Students will still have to determine credibility, purpose, and relevance of each source.

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Overall Rating
3

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?
3

The design may be simple, but there's no reason curious kids wouldn't use the site to look up topics on an ongoing basis. However, describing search results in a more concise sentence or two would make the content clearer.

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

Searches provide links to mostly reputable, in-depth websites. More activities and info on finding and evaluating sources are needed to help kids build strong research skills.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?
2

The site is easy to navigate but doesn't offer much in the way of help or feedback. Additional features for students with special needs would make the tool more accessible.
 


Teacher Reviews

4
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Featured review by
Chris C. , Classroom teacher
Classroom teacher
Concordia International School Shanghai
Pudong, 31
4
SweetSearch Out-Googles Google For Student Research

Overview
SweetSearch is a search engine of teacher-reviewed, scholarly resources, and in my humble opinion beats Google Scholar hands down! Why better than Google Search? For one thing, there are no ads. Over 35,000 sites have been vetted by teachers and librarians, and ranked based upon their determination of reliability. So, Library of Congress is going to be high on most search results. As a history teacher I particularly enjoy the fact that the search engine finds primary source documents much more easily than other search engines.

Concerns
Nothing beats a good database search for crunchy, academic resources, but SweetSearch does go a long way to addressing the issue of Googling a research subject.

Sample Uses
Any student research short of the college-level will benefit from this search engine.

Commitment and Learning Curve
Zero. If you can Google-search, then you can SweetSearch.

Best for ES MS or HS?
MS, HS

Cost:
Free!

Website Link:
http://www.sweetsearch.com/

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