My Sacramento colleague, Alice Mercer, has just written a very thorough and thoughtful review of NetTrekker, the search engine so many school districts pay to have available in their schools. It appears in the Alt Search Engines blog.
I have to say that I completely agree with her conclusions (this excerpt is only a small part of what she writes):
You don’t always get what you pay for. Much of what you get for a fee from NetTrekker for elementary students, can be obtained elsewhere simply by adding the term “children” to your search. There are other bells and whistles on NetTrekker, but some of them (the text to speech) do not work well with low memory computers, such as the ones in my lab. I think the visual previews (from free services like MelZoo) are more useful.
Especially in light of the budget crisis, it seems to me that districts might want to consider spending their money elsewhere.
I’d be interested in hearing if people agree or think differently.
Readers might also be interested in The Best Search Engines For ESL/EFL Learners — 2008.
Read this and see what you think..(depending on the string)
I don’t share in the opinion about NetTrekker. I am a classroom teacher for a large, urban school district. In Fresno Unified we have had the opportunity to have NetTrekker for our student’s and teachers. This is a comprehensive intuitive tool that is valuable for all curriculum areas and users ability. If often shocks me to hear what people are saying about a product that they haven’t tested in the classroom, with mulitiple grade levels and abilities like I have with NetTrekker. I am urging each reader to evaluate the product themselves, with “real” kids. As a matter of fact, my son who is in a neighboring district was unable to find research on “Social Darwinism” He had been to the local library, used the schools database and had no luck. I logged into my NetTrekker search engine and found appropriate websites in a matter of moments. My mother in law said, how come Tyler’s school doesn’t have this”NetTrekker”? I had to tell her not everyone has the same useful tools and it is a shame.
I’m sure NetTrekker has some value, and it obviously has for your son and your students. I do know that both Alice and I have used it with our students, and we have both come to the conclusion that other search engines have worked better for our classes.
I certainly agree, though, that, like anything in both Alice’s and my blogs, it’s just our opinion and (I believe I can also speak for Alice on this) we’d encourage people to try NetTrekker and the alternatives that we both suggest, and then decide for themselves.
I concur with Larry. Just to make it clear, I am an ELEMENTARY classroom teacher, and I’ve used NetTrekker for the last 4 years. The differences between NetTrekker and what’s free has, in that time, gotten slimmer and slimmer. I will also add that at recent meeting with tech trainers in my district (all teachers by the way), they were not seeing much of a “value add” from this product.
I would urge that even those who use NetTrekker with their classes keep in mind you will need to teach students how to evaluate search engine results on their own at some point, and WAITING until they are in high school is too late. We should be starting that in upper elementary. NetTrekker, removes most of the need for students to do that task. I used to think of that as an incredible time waster for students, but I’m coming to the conclusion that if you don’t work with the tools they are using, and teach them how to use them responsibly, they will build poor research habits that are hard to unlearn.