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Critical Thinking for Effective Searches


Boolify is an educational Boolean search tool aimed primarily for elementary and middle school children. It is designed to teach students the basics of a good search using popular search engines.

Users drag and drop tiles depicting search parameters (OR or NOT) onto the display screen. Resulting web links are listed below the display area.
(This site is currently being revised - August 2012.)


This Web 2.0 teaching tool is a good precursor to Google for younger students. The visual clues provide a mental model of the logic behind the search process.

The purpose of teaching students how to use the Boolean operators of “OR” and “NOT” during searching online is to either narrow or expand their search results. The Boolean operators help to create a relationship between the keywords used in the search and to modify the results.


21st Century Skills

A student who is information literate is able to access information efficiently and effectively. Choosing appropriate keywords and using Boolean operators helps to retrieve relevant information, thus refining the search process and results.

The American Association of School Librarians’ publication Standards for the 21st Century Learner states that students should “use skills, tools, and resources to inquire, think critically, and gain knowledge.” This Web 2.0 teaching tool helps students to activate prior knowledge and think critically to search the vast amount of information that is available today.

In the Classroom

Take a look at these lesson ideas for basic Boolean searches, refining search results, and evaluating websites. Lessons are from the Public Learning Media Laboratory.

Watch how a third grade class learned about Boolean searches. This video is from Alecia Berman-Dry’s "Ed Tech Axis" blog. (The students are using an earlier version of the site.)

Video - Trying Out the Boolify Search Engine – Third Grade Technology

Common Core State Standards (CCSS).

This Web 2.0 tool supports the CCSS by helping K-12 students learn to refine the online search process which is critical to effectively using popular search engines. Since skills important to research are infused throughout the CCSS, these online search skills are crucial to students.

Writing Standards. Research to Build and Present Knowledge

7. Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects based on focused questions, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.

8. Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, assess the credibility and accuracy of each source, and integrate the information while avoiding plagiarism.

9. Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.


The video tutorial below provides a good introduction to the site.

Safety Concerns

The Boolify web site states that Google’s “Safe Search STRICT” technology is used for search results, but reminds users that no filtering technology is 100% secure and that the site cannot control or modify results beyond Google’s filtering settings.

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