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Tour Home: How to use the Internet in Your Classroom
Tour Home: The New Teacher Handbook
How to Use the Internet in Your Classroom: Search Engines: The Devil in Disguise

Hope Reichbach 

Hunter College High School 

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Search Engines: The Devil in Disguise

A true tale from a seventh-grade student assigned a research project without any teacher guidance

One evening, I was on the Internet, searching for data for my science fair project on water pollution in New York City. I always use the search engine "Yahoo," so naturally I went to the search bar and typed in "NYC Water Pollution," hoping to find some links. No matches. Then I tried "NYC Water" which brought me two matches to commercial sites for water filters. Next I tried "NYC Pollution." Everything about pollution came up-air, water, noise-but nothing about New York City. Actually, one match did come up: "NYC, the Best Place to Vacation." Although I could agree with that, it didn't exactly help. By now I'd decided that my trusty search engine wasn't working, so I went to AskJeeves. I did the same searches, and the same matches came up. I was getting very frustrated and a little worried. I tried three more search engines before arriving at Homework Central, which had some categories where you can ask teachers questions. There was no real science category, though, and "no teachers were available at the moment." I left that site and went to Homework Help, and the same thing happened.

After that experience, I was so frustrated that I forcefully turned off the computer and stormed downstairs in tears. I worked on my math homework until my parents got home, at which point I ran into my mother's arms and cried that I had searched for two hours unsuccessfully and was about to go mad. I needed my sources for the science fair project quickly because the bibliography was due in three days. My mother told me to go to bed, and the next day she would see what she could do.

When I came home from school the next day, my mother had done some research and found very helpful information directly from the web sites of the NYC government and the Sierra Club - two organizations she thought would have information about water pollution in New York City. Most kids would never think of going to these sites, or even know that they existed. I think that teachers should give their students helpful web sites so that kids can actually get something done. When we are given projects, specific web addresses should be mentioned so that kids don't have to go through what I did.


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