Online Searching and Learning: YUM and Other Search Tools for Children and Teachers

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Information discovery tasks using online search tools are performed on a regular basis by school-age children. However, these tools are not necessarily designed to both explicitly facilitate the retrieval of resources these young users can comprehend and aid low-literacy searchers. This is of particular concern for educational environments, as there is an inherent expectation that these tools facilitate effective learning. In this manuscript we present an initial assessment conducted over (1) children-oriented search tools based on queries generated by K-9 students, analyzing features such as readability and adequacy of retrieved results, and (2) tools used by teachers in their classrooms, analyzing their main purpose and target audience’s age range. Among the examined tools, we include YouUnderstood.Me, an enhanced search environment, which is the result of our ongoing efforts on the development of a search environment tailored to 5-15 year-olds that can foster learning through the retrieval of materials that not only satisfy the information needs of these users but also match their reading abilities. The results of these studies highlight the fact that search results presented to children have average reading levels that do not match the target audience. In addition, tools oriented to teachers do not go beyond showing the progress of their students, and seldomly provide a simple way of retrieving class contents that fit current needs of students. These facts further showcase the need for developing a dual environment oriented to both teachers and students.