Choosito!

I wanted to write a post about OER and the #GoOpen movement, but as so often happens, as soon as I get near Feedly or Twitter, I get distracted and wind up in the rabbit hole for hours. It’s a hazard of a good PLN. Today, my meanderings led me to a fantastic post by Joyce Valenza in the SLJ blog: Choosito! supporting kid search, discovery and literacy.

I recently posted about Kiddle, the google-like search engine for kids. As I was unpacking the various vices and virtues of this product and the reactions to it across the Twitterverse (here’s my quick Storify about that), there was yet another search engine for kids hitting the scene; it’s appealingly called Choosito! and it’s awesome.

The person behind this product, Dr. Eleni Miltsakaki, is a linguist, scientist, and educator at UPenn, but she sure sounds like a librarian:

“I am not a proponent of blocking. I want students to search in their own index.  Realistically, reliable resources are not the only content student searchers will discover.  I want them to develop the skill of evaluating information.  We include appropriate content, but we do not block user-generated content like blogs and Wikipedia.  Students can search, but they can also choose to browse the reliable content selected in the Library. Few decisions are either good or bad.” (Valenza, J. 2016, March 5)

So, with Choosito, we have the opportunity to teach our students the crucial skill of information evaluation. Unlike Kiddle, Choosito prioritizes information literacy over ‘safety’. Filters are available for students and/or teachers to narrow results by reading level (early readers, emerging readers, fluent readers, and advanced readers) and by subject area. The web search will also yield user-generated content, such as opinion sites and reviews- an important and growing segment of our information world. Happily, there is no group of editors deciding what is or isn’t safe for young eyes– which, by the way, seems futile as what may be ‘appropriate’ for a 6th grader is neither going to be ‘appropriate’ nor digestible for a first grader anyway. And in so doing, invites students to join the real world of search, and learn how to make good decisions. They need guided practice on this.  Choosito’s image search helps in this endeavor as well, putting “filter by licence type/creative commons” boxes front and center on the image page, a reminder for the attribution process.

The ‘Library’ feature is as close as Choosito gets to a group of behind-the-scenes-editors as we have seen over at Kiddle. At Choosito, however, we’re not talking about an unamed group of censors banning words like ‘breast’ or ‘gay’, but rather, a group of educators (albeit, unamed*) who are curating content to the tune of  150,000 sites. I would, however, be interested in learning more about their selection criteria. (*We do know that Choosito was developed with a National Science Foundation grant, which is comforting in contrast with rumors that Kiddle is backed by a Russian founder of a site called Freaking News)

Choosito also taps into the demand for participatory experiences with a user-generated thumbs-up or thumbs down system for evaluating website quality. Students can make decisions as to the reliability of the source and share that with other users. They are also encouraged to make suggestions for the library,  transforming this product into something much, much richer than a search engine- something more along the lines of personalized learning.  Indeed, much of Choosito’s functionality is completely free, but premium packages offer analytics that reveal how each student goes about their search, providing an excellent way to target those who need more search and evaluation practice.

Librarians are going to love this product. Just have a look at their “Why Choosito” page, emblazoned across the top in bold font:

Because the web is not a library

and search engines are not librarians

 

Take a minute to jump down the rabbit hole and explore Choosito– I promise, it’s a distraction you don’t want to miss.

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