The Best Podcasts for K-12 Students

student podcasts

Podcasts have a big influence on my personal learning. I listen to multiple podcasts every day and I know that I am a more rounded and informed person because of it. Lots of people I know feel the same way, and maybe you do too. After all, more people are listening to podcasts now than ever before. So, are there podcasts for the students we teach? Can they too benefit from this expansive learning platform? Of course! Here are some podcasts that could be a great addition to your classroom learning library.

Podcasts for Elementary Students

  • The Radio Adventures of Eleanor Amplified – Buckle up, kids! This rocket ship’s headed for… adventure! Join our hero, Eleanor Amplified, the world-famous radio reporter, as she foils dastardly plots, outwits crafty villains, and goes after The Big Story. Listen in as Eleanor’s pursuit of truth takes her into orbit, out to sea, through a scary jungle, and even to the halls of Congress! Start with Episode 1 and get ready for a wild ride. From WHYY in Philadelphia. Keep up with Eleanor at http://eleanoramplified.com.
  • Brains On! – Brains On is a science podcast for curious kids and adults from MPR News and KPCC. Co-hosted each week by kid scientists and reporters from public radio, we ask questions ranging from the science behind sneezing to how to translate the purr of cats, and go wherever the answers take us.
  • Story Nory – Storynory brings you an audio story every week. Each one is beautifully read by Natasha and friends. Let Natasha’s voice beguile you with classic fairy tales, new children’s stories, poems, myths, adventures and romance.
  • Short & Curly – SHORT & CURLY is a fast-paced fun-filled ethics podcast for kids and their parents, with questions and ideas to really get you thinking. It asks curly questions like about animals, technology, school, pop culture and the future. Thanks to our two fabulous hosts, there’s lots of time for silliness too. We are also helped out by resident ethicist Matt Beard, a brainstrust of school children and some special high-profile guests like sporting stars and famous musicians. SHORT & CURLY is especially designed to be listened to alone or as a family, with questions to think about and time to discuss it together.
  • But Why: A Podcast for Curious Kids – But Why is a show led by kids. They ask the questions and we find the answers. It’s a big interesting world out there. On But Why, we tackle topics large and small, about nature, words, even the end of the world. Know a kid with a question? Record it with a smartphone. Be sure to include your kid’s first name, age, and town and send the recording to questions@butwhykids.org!
  • Story Pirates Podcast – Story Pirates is a group of world-class actors, comedians, improvisers and musicians who adapt stories written by kids into sketch comedy and musical theater. Story Pirates Podcast features highlights from our weekly radio show on SiriusXM’s Kids Place Live. Visit www.storypirates.org for more information on Story Pirates and how you can bring our live show to your school or town!
  • Tumble Science – Exploring stories of science discovery. Tumble is a science podcast for kids ages 8 – 12, created to be enjoyed by the entire family. Hosted & produced by Lindsay Patterson (science journalist) & Marshall Escamilla (teacher).

Podcasts for Middle/High School

  • Serial – Serial is a podcast from the creators of This American Life, hosted by Sarah Koenig. Serial unfolds one story – a true story – over the course of a whole season. The show follows the plot and characters wherever they lead, through many surprising twists and turns. Sarah won’t know what happens at the end of the story until she gets there, not long before you get there with her. Each week she’ll bring you the latest chapter, so it’s important to listen in, starting with Episode 1. New episodes are released on Thursday mornings. (Explicit language)
  • Planet Money – Imagine you could call up a friend and say, “Meet me at the bar and tell me what’s going on with the economy.” Now imagine that’s actually a fun evening. That’s what we’re going for at Planet Money. The team produces a twice-weekly show, a blog, and radio stories for NPR’s flagship news programs, Morning Edition and All Things Considered.
  • Dan Carlan’s Hardcore History – In “Hardcore History” journalist and broadcaster Dan Carlin takes his “Martian”, unorthodox way of thinking and applies it to the past. Was Alexander the Great as bad a person as Adolf Hitler? What would Apaches with modern weapons be like? Will our modern civilization ever fall like civilizations from past eras? This isn’t academic history (and Carlin isn’t a historian) but the podcast’s unique blend of high drama, masterful narration and Twilight Zone-style twists has entertained millions of listeners.
  • TED Radio Hour – The TED Radio Hour is a journey through fascinating ideas: astonishing inventions, fresh approaches to old problems, new ways to think and create. Based on Talks given by riveting speakers on the world-renowned TED stage, each show is centered on a common theme – such as the source of happiness, crowd-sourcing innovation, power shifts, or inexplicable connections.
  • Freakonomics – Have fun discovering the hidden side of everything with host Stephen J. Dubner, co-author of the best-selling “Freakonomics” books. Each week, hear surprising conversations that explore the riddles of everyday life and the weird wrinkles of human nature—from cheating and crime to parenting and sports. Dubner talks with Nobel laureates and provocateurs, social scientists and entrepreneurs — and his “Freakonomics” co-author Steve Levitt.
  • Radiolab – Radiolab is a show about wonder, curiosity and big ideas. Hailed by critics as “best radio show,” Radiolab presents a potent elixir of science and philosophy, first-person storytelling and radio theatre, all woven together with the most innovative sound design to ever spill out of the radio. Hosted by Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich and produced by WNYC, the show is heard on more than 300 public radio stations around the country.
  • 99% Invisible – Design is everywhere in our lives, perhaps most importantly in the places where we’ve just stopped noticing. 99% Invisible is a weekly exploration of the process and power of design and architecture. From award winning producer Roman Mars.

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Creating Photo & Video Slideshows is Easy With Quik for iPad

Quik for iPaD

I love iPad video editor apps like iMovie and Splice, but sometimes all you really want to do is quickly throw some photos together in a slideshow, save it as a movie, and share it with others. In this past, this has undoubtedly taken more time than it should, but Quik for iOS changes everything. With this free app you can create a professional looking video with music and titles in almost no time at all. Here’s what you need to know.

How to Create Video Slideshows With Quik for iPad

1. Start by tapping the Create button and selecting the images and/or videos that you would like to include. Tap OK when you are ready to move on.

Select photos videos Quik

2. A video will immediately start playing with the media you selected automatically matched to an upbeat music track. If you like it, then you’re done! Click Save to share your video. To explore more options, keep reading!

3. Tap the paint bucket icon in the top right-hand corner of your screen to choose a new theme. Scroll horizontally to see all the themes that are available. Each one has a selection of filters, fonts and animations that will give your movie a unique and stylish look. Tapping twice on a theme will let you fine tune the effects.

Quik themes

4. Tap the music icon if you want to browser the music library or add your own music. To change the current selection, tap Remove Current Track, then tap once more to select a new one. You can browser the GoPro music library or tap My Music to add something from your device or from a variety of cloud accounts.

5. Tap the pencil icon for the editor mode. This feature gives you more control over your images. You can tap on any picture for the ability to set a point of interest on your images, add text, duplicate the image, or delete it from your timeline. Text can also be added before or after media by tapping on an image and then tapping the plus sign on either side of it.

focus points in Quik

6. Tapping the wrench allows you to toggle between a square or a widescreen view and to set the overall length of your video. Quik makes a recommendation based on the number of images or videos you add, but you can override that if you want. Should you decide to change the length of the video, look for the music icon on the timeline. These are the ideal fade points for the music track you chose.

How to Share Videos Created With Quik for iPad

When you are finished and ready to share, click the Save button. There are a number of great ways to share your finished video. Aside from the usual social network options you can choose to save to your camera roll. Interestingly, you can also use the Copy Link feature to upload the video to GoPro’s servers and share an unlisted link to your video. Tapping More will render your video and give you the option to share it via other apps installed on your iPad. Here is a “Quik” video that I put together with some free images from unsplash.com.

Educational Uses for Photo & Video Slideshows

If you’ve read this far, I expect you already have all kinds of great ideas for how to use photo and video slideshows with students. They are great for remembering field trips, sports games, and other school events. Videos are perfect for reflecting on progress in PBL or other elongated classroom projects. You can use them in Science to show change over time or to document a process and add titles in between with explanations. I even met a preschool teacher once who took photos of her students every day for a year and then combined them into a video, complete with a sentimental soundtrack, that made a special end of year gift for parents.

Alternative Apps for Photo & Video Slideshows on the iPad

In terms of simplicity, I think that this is exactly where you want to be. Quik is about as easy as it gets. That said, Animoto runs a close second and has many of the same features. Educators can apply for a free Animoto Plus account for use in the classroom here. iMovie can do photo and video slideshows and has many more options like slow motion, or picture in picture, both of which could really help you or your students make your final product really shine. You may also want to check out Quik’s sister app called Splice. I am a BIG fan of Splice. Although it was designed as a video editor, it would still be a very sensible choice for photo/video slideshows.

The One App I Can’t Live Without

app you cant live without

Recently, at the #iPadU conference, I was challenged to think about the one app I couldn’t live without. This was harder than I thought it might be. I mean, there are a lot of apps I really like, but are there any that I couldn’t live without, or at least be able to find some kind of passable replacement for? After some consideration, I decided that there was such an app, and that it really was quite unique in what it offers students, teachers and just about everyone else. That app, is the Camera app.

In many ways it is more than just an app, because it is now an essential hardware feature, but many people forget that when the iPad was first introduced in April 2010, there was no camera. Even today, there are those that still laud the introduction of the original iPad as a new era for computing, but for me, the iPad 2 was far more important than the one that came before it. When the iPad 2 was announced a year later, it had a two cameras – one on the front and one on the back.  The addition of these cameras opened up a whole new world for what was actually possible with an iPad, and quickly turned this mobile tablet from a consumption device to a creation device. It transformed the iPad into something infinitely more appealing and opened the doors for developers to create some amazing apps.

In the years that followed, the camera(s) improved in functionality and quality. On the latest iPad Pro, the stock camera app allows you to take 12 megapixel photos, 4k video, huge panoramas, time lapse videos, and slow motion movies at up to 240fps. There is a timer mode, Auto HDR, face detection, burst mode, exposure control and geotagging. Yet, in many ways, all this technology is just the tip of the iceberg because of the way that iOS allows other apps to access the camera and the photos and videos that you capture with it.

Today, you can make green screen movies on your iPad with no difficulties at all. You can edit videos in a full featured video editor. You can create multimedia eBooks with Book Creator or create your own comic book with Halftone 2 and ComicBook! Be amazed as you build multimedia slideshows with Shadow Puppet or 30 Hands, and create stop motion movies with iMotion HD. Capture learning as it happens with SeeSaw. Tell the story of your school on social media by sharing photos and videos on Twitter, Facebook & Instagram. Point your camera at AR targets to add unparalleled levels of interactivity with the help of Aurasma or DAQRI. Transform your photos into shareworthy images with graphic design apps for the iPad, create collages with PicCollage Kids, or make amazing photo slideshows with Quik & Animoto.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, nor was it meant to be. These are just a fraction of the activities that educators use the camera for in schools today, but as a whole they serve to underline the vital importance of this unsung iPad app. Sometimes we take it for granted, or forget that it is there, but I am in no doubt whatsoever that the only app I couldn’t live without is the camera app.

How to Use Microsoft Forms in Office 365 Education

How to Use the New Microsoft Forms

Have you seen the new Microsoft Forms? One of the most popular articles on my blog in the last 12 months was related to its predecessor – Excel Surveys. Not only did that post get a lot of views, but it also got a lot of comments from people with questions about the features of Excel Surveys, or more importantly for some, the features it did not have. You can still use Excel Surveys, but Microsoft are in the process of transitioning to something better – Microsoft Forms. This version includes automatic grading and built-in student feedback. Here’s what you need to know.

Getting Started

You can find the homepage for Microsoft Forms by going to forms.office.com, or you may see Forms listed in the Office 365 App Launcher. Both links go to the same place. Technically, Forms is still in Preview but you can sign in with your Office 365 Education account today and start creating surveys and quizzes. The new Microsoft Forms work on desktop and mobile browsers.

Once you are logged in, click the New button to create your first form. Replace Untitled Form with a title of your choice, and add a description underneath if you want to provide any directions or information for students or parents who are filling out your Form.

Building a Form

Tapping the Add Question button gives you access to the question types that are available to you in this new version of Microsoft Forms. The options include:

  1. Choice: for creating multiple choice questions! Tap or click the slider to allow people to select multiple answers. You can also tap or click the ellipses button to shuffle answers.
  2. Quiz: a multiple choice question that you allows you to select a correct answer for automatic grading. Tapping the comment icon on each answer choice lets you add student feedback for each selection. Multiple answers and shuffled answers are also available to you when working on Quiz questions.
  3. Text: to collect short (or long) text answers use the Text question type. Tap or click the ellipses button to include number restrictions like greater than, less than, equal to, and more.
  4. Rating: for adding a star or number rating. Could be useful as part of an exit ticket or for voting on class favorites. Ratings can be out of 5 or 10, and tapping the ellipses button will allow you to add a label at either end of this Likert scale.
  5. Date: a question type that only allows for an answer in date format.

Microsoft Forms Question Builder

More Tips & Tricks:

  • Any question type can be marked as a required question by sliding the Answer required switch to the right. This means students can’t submit the Form until they have answered all of these questions.
  • You can rearrange questions by clicking on them and tapping the up and down arrows to move them to the order you need.
  • Deleting questions is as simple as clicking the trash can while editing a question
  • Create a duplicate of any question by tapping the copy icon to the left of the question order arrows. This is ideal for adding similar question types, (E.g. Q1. First name, Q2. Last name).

Preview and Themes

You can see a live view of your Form at any time by clicking the Preview button on the toolbar at the top of the page. This will show you the view that students or parents will get when they access your survey. Clicking Back in the top left-hand corner returns you to the question editor.

Use the Theme button to choose from a variety of colorful designs that you can use to add more personality to your Form. The current selection is a little limited but I expect this will be expanded before too much longer.

Microsoft Forms Themes

Sharing Microsoft Forms

When you are ready to share your survey or quiz with others, click the Send Form button in the top right-hand corner of your screen. This opens a sidebar on the right-hand side of your screen with a variety of sharing options. These options include:

  1. Copy and Paste the Link: This is the public facing URL for your Microsoft Form. This is the link you will want to share with students, parents or whoever else might be filling in your Form. It is a pretty long link, so if you are not using anchor text, I would suggest sharing with a URL shortener like tinyurl.com or bit.ly.
  2. Email the Link: Click this button to open a new email in your default Mail client (e.g. Outlook) with the link to your form pre-pasted into the compose window ready to send.
  3. Download & Send the QR Code: In an age of mobile devices I especially like the inclusion of this option. It generates a QR code that links to your Form. You can download the QR code as an image and print it or add it to a website or electronic document.
  4. Embed in a Webpage: If you want to put your Microsoft Form directly on to a school or classroom webpage, you can use this option to generate the HTML code you need to allow people to fill out the Form on your website. You can even add a Form to a Sway and it works great with an LMS too!

sharing settings for Microsoft forms

The remaining option, Who can fill out this form, is an important one. Make sure you get this right before you send the Form to other people. These options let you choose the visibility and privacy for your Form. If you leave the default option selected, only those with an Office 365 account at your school will be able to fill in your Form. Users will need to log in with those credentials to even see the Form. The advantage here is a modicum of privacy and accountability because it will automatically collect the names and email addresses of those filling in your Form unless you uncheck Record the names of responders.

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5 Creative Graphic Design Apps for iPads

iPad Graphic Design Apps

Are you ready to harness your inner designer? Today it is easier than ever thanks to a variety of easy to use graphic design apps for the iPad. These “text on photos” apps are increasingly popular and many of them do a great job of simplifying the design process for non-designers. They could be a great platform for exploring visual literacy and visual design in the classroom, or simply to spice up your social media presence. I myself have quite a few of these kinds of apps on my iPad so I thought I would take some time to share five of my favorites together with some of the reasons I like them.

1. Canva (Free with in-app purchases)

If you’ve heard of any of these apps before, you probably heard of Canva. It is available on the web, and for the iPad, and is a great way to get started creating fun, fresh looking images. Canva has a number of templates you can use (some free, some paid) and bucket loads of inspiration. I particularly like the icon gallery and the free image search, although I will often use sites like Unsplash too and bring those into Canva. This app is perfect for social media graphics, posters, presentations, blog post images and even infographics. There are also some great lesson plans for teaching design in your classroom that were written by educators like Vicki Davis, Monica Burns, Steven Anderson and more. The only real downside to Canva is that you need an account to use the app and that it is designed to be a service for those 13 and older.

canva for ipad

2. Adobe Spark Post (Free)

Adobe Spark Post is a relatively new app for the iPad, but it has been available for iPhone users for a while now. In many ways it is quite comparable to Canva, but it has a few neat features that are well worth exploring. For instance, if you have a graphic you want to share on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest, Adobe Spark Post can automatically adjust your design so that the image is optimally sized for each social network. It also lets you change themes and color palettes at the touch of a button or add life to your design by saving it as a stylish animated GIF. There is a library of public domain images that you can search through and use in your designs, but you can just as easily use photos from your Camera Roll too. It is a lot of fun to play with and can also be accessed on the web at spark.adobe.com. A free Adobe account is required to use any of the Adobe Spark apps.

Adobe Spark Post

3. Word Swag ($3.99 with in-app purchases)

I have been using Word Swag for a little while now, but I was hesitant to purchase it because it was $3.99 AND has in-app purchases. As it happens, there is a LOT you can do with just the initial purchase. You really don’t need to buy anything extra, and some of the in-app purchases are actually free right now and have been for a some time. Word Swag integrates with Pixabay so that you can search for Creative Commons Zero images that you want to use in your design, but you can also choose from a number of solid, textured and gradient images without any searching at all. There are a huge variety of font styles to choose from and a variety of filters and font color effects. However, there is no real way to crop or resize your image. There is a Twitter Preview Area, but that is about the only guidance you get before you share online. That said, it is still a great app that produces some stunning images, and if you like inspirational quotes, you will love the built-in quote generator. Word Swag is also available for Android.

Word Swag for iPad

4. Over (Free with in-app purchases)

If you are hesitant about paying the $3.99 for Word Swag, try Over. I know it has a lot of in-app purchases, but again you get a decent amount for free, and you can collect free artwork every day just by accessing the free artwork gallery in the app. Over has some pretty robust photo editing tools that can be used to tweak photos from Unsplash, Pixabay, or from your Camera Roll. It has filters, blurring tools, shapes, fonts, artwork and more. However, I think it was a paid app when I first downloaded it so I am not sure how many of the features I enjoy are now listed as in-app purchases. For instance, features like the crop tool that lets you size an image for Twitter, Facebook, Instagram & much more, is currently a 99c add-on, but I know I never paid for that. Still, there is a lot to like in the Over app and I do find myself going back to it more than I thought I would. It is a versatile app with some interesting creative options. Over is also available for Android.

Over for iPad

5. Studio Design (Free)

Studio Design is an app that I came across while researching what I was going to include in this blog post. I haven’t used it a whole lot, but based on the time that I have spent using it, I think it is worthy of inclusion here. It does many of the same kind of things that other apps in this category do, but perhaps most interesting to me was the ability to remix designs from other people. When you do this, the camera on your device opens with the fonts and other layers overlaid on your screen so that you can compose and take your own picture. For me, that had a lot of interesting creative opportunities and it models good digital citizenship because  published designs include a credit for the original designer. The app is 100% free, does not require you to set up an account, and has plenty free artwork that you can download. Studio is also available for Android.

Bonus Pick: Notegraphy (Free)

Looking to display some longer forms of text? If so, Notegraphy is worth a look. Simply type or copy and paste the text you want to beautify, then choose from a number of stylish themes that can be used to showcase your words. It is a little more restrictive than some of the apps above in terms of features, but there is something to be said for simplicity. It can also be used on Android and on the web at notegraphy.com.

Further Research

Some other apps that I have not yet had the chance to try, (but would like to), include Typic, Uptown & Co, Retype, Typorama, Rhonna Designs and Path On. Have you tried any of these graphic design apps for the iPad? If so, which ones are your favorites?

How to Use Twitter #Stickers & Edit Photos in Tweets

how to use twitter stickers

Earlier this week, Twitter introduced Stickers – a new way to add personality to the images you share from your phone or tablet. Stickers may see whimsical, but they are a fun way to add interactivity to images and they are yet another way you can edit photos before publishing them online. Why bother? Knowing how to use images correctly in tweets is useful because according to Twitter’s own stats, tweets with photos have seen a 35% increase in visibility and retweets. So, in this post I am going to show you how to use Twitter Stickers, as well as some other useful tips and tricks related to editing and sharing photos on mobile devices.

How to Use Twitter Stickers

The first thing to know is that, as of today, Twitter Stickers only work on the iOS and Android versions of the official Twitter app. Once you have that idea cemented in your mind, the rest is very easy.

  1. Tap the compose icon in the top right hand corner to begin your tweet
  2. Next, tap Photo to capture a new image or swipe up to choose one from your device
  3. Tap the smiley face to see the stickers that are available to you
  4. Browse the categories of stickers by tapping the icons on the bottom toolbar
  5. Tap a sticker to add it to your photo
  6. Resize or re-position the sticker by pinching or dragging
  7. Add more stickers by tapping the smiley face in the bottom right-hand corner
  8. To remove a sticker, press and hold on it, then drag it to the trash can

Twitter Stickers on the iPad

Once you have added stickers to a tweet, they inherit a visual tag. Other people can tap on your Sticker to see a timeline of tweets by other people who also used that sticker. You can also search under the #Stickers hashtag to see creative examples like the ones below:

stickers1

stickers2

How to Edit Photos in the Twitter App

You may already have a favorite photo editing tool for your mobile device, but if you don’t, or you just want to make some last minute adjustments, the Twitter app can help. Editing tools are available by tapping the pencil icon on an image after you have added your photo(s) to a tweet. You will then see a number of options that will let you tweak the image to your taste.

  • Magic wand: A one-click fix for lighting and color
  • Filters: A selection of color adjustments to add style or mood to an image
  • Crop Tool: Resize or rotate and image for your tweet

Once you have made the adjustments you need, click Save to store the settings. Note that your original photo remains as it was before. Only the photo you tweeted includes the image adjustments that you make in the Twitter app.

Twitter Photo editor ios

5 Top Twitter Photo Tips

  1. Twitter displays images best when they are in a rectangular 2:1 ratio. Images that are sized 1024×512 pixels will often work best, but apps like Canva and Adobe Spark Post can size images automatically so that they will look their best on Twitter. You can also use the wide crop in Twitter’s photo editor (see above) to get a similar effect.
  2. You can tag up to 10 people in a photo without sacrificing any characters from your tweet. Simply tap the Who’s in this photo? link to add the names of others you would like to notify about your tweet. This is great for tagging people in a photo, but is even better for notifying others about your tweet when you run out of characters in the tweet body.
  3. If a picture is worth a 1000 words, what is a GIF worth? Sometimes these animated images are all you need to say exactly what is on your mind. The GIF button is right next to the camera icon in your tweet composer and can be used with Twitter.com or mobile devices, but you can’t tag people in a GIF.
  4. You can add up to four images to a Tweet. Each photo can be edited and each photo can have stickers on it. You can reorder images by removing them from a tweet and selecting them again in the order you want them to appear. Photos can be up to 5MB and must be in the GIF, JPEG or PNG image format.
  5. GIFS and photos can also be sent in a direct message to other users. However, there are some restrictions. Stickers can not currently be applied to photos that are sent in a direct message, and you can only send one photo at a time.

I Use DuckDuckGo, Do You?

DuckDuckGo

I have a confession to make. I haven’t “googled” anything for a long time. I haven’t run out of things to search for, (I still do web searches dozens of times a day), but for the last 18 months or so I have been using an alternative to Google, and I haven’t looked back once. Here’s why you might want to think about doing the same.

What is DuckDuckGo?

DuckDuckGo is a search engine that has several unique features that set it apart from the likes of Google, Bing or Yahoo!. Among the most important to me is privacy. DuckDuckGo does not collect or share any of your personal information when you complete a web search. It is, to all intents and purposes, completely anonymous. The same cannot be said for Google, Bing or Yahoo! who use this data to build a profile about you so that advertisers can target you with ads that inevitably follow you around the internet.

Privacy is Dead, Right?

The vast majority of the internet is free to use, but it’s not without a cost. There is an expression I like that sums this up well – If you didn’t buy the product, you are the product. Google, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Bing and others all offer compelling free services, but whether you know it or not, they also collect large amounts of personal data from you when you use their products. Cookies, ads and other tracking tools watch your every move and record your online activities.

The truth is, your personal data is valuable, and an increasing number of people are trying to get a hold of as much of it as they can. Grocery stores collect data on you every time you use a store card. Email marketers track the clicks they get from newsletters you subscribe to. Internet Service Providers, research companies, telemarketers, political parties and countless other people all want to know more about you so that they can use that data to their advantage. As consumers, educators, parents and citizens of a digital world, we need to be aware of this.

However, I think we need to do more than just educate ourselves. We need to go further and help inform others (especially teens) of the trade off that they are making when they first start using these services. Are you comfortable with the kind of relationship you are entering into with these services? Are there alternatives with better privacy policies? Is there any way to take a stand against this incessant data mining? Questions like these led me to DuckDuckGo in the first place and started me thinking more about online privacy.

DuckDuckGo Safari Firefox

Is DuckDuckGo Any Good?

Actually, it is. I wouldn’t use it if it wasn’t. I started off using DuckDuckGo on a trial basis but I couldn’t help think I would revert back to Google or Bing before too long. However, I stuck with it for several days and doggedly refused to use anything else, just to see if it really could work for me or not. What I soon came to realize was that the search results I got from DuckDuckGo were actually very good, and when I compared the keyword searches with Google or Bing I got similar (or better) results.

It is also a growing service. Last I checked, DuckDuckGo was handling an average of 11.3 million searches per day. This number is nowhere close to the billions of searches that Google handles, but it is a number that is increasing all the time and it is testament to the fact that they serve up great search queries. This means a sizeable number of people do use DuckDuckGo as their default search engine.

Does it Do Any Tricks?

Indeed it does. DuckDuckGo has some useful options like themes, region and time sensitive searches, but you would probably expect features like that. It has a safe search mode that is enabled by default and there are numerous custom options you can explore in the settings, including the ability to turn off advertisements. You will also notice that, depending on what you search for, images, news, videos, definitions, maps and more appear as instant answers at the top of your results page. Music, recipes, weather, and movies are also among these results with the ability to play audio and video files from the search page, as opposed to visiting a site like YouTube that tracks your viewing history.

Instant Answer Search Results DuckDuckGo

However, the real power of DuckDuckGo is found in the bangs. Bangs are a way to quickly search thousands of your favorite sites with a handy keyboard shortcut. Bangs use the search engine on your favorite sites to give you exactly the results you need. For instance, let’s say you wanted to look for an external hard drive on eBay. You could go to ebay.com and type your keywords into the search box at the top of the page. However, with DuckDuckGo, all you need to do is type !ebay external hard drive and it will display the same website search results.

Note: You can do something similar on Google with a search query like site:ebay.com external hard drive, but this will give you a list of search results on Google’s website, as opposed to ebay.com, so it is an extra click if you want to view any of those results and it is more cumbersome if you want to view more information on multiple results.

As you can see below, there are bangs for all kind of sites and services on the web. In fact, as of today, there are at least 8,225 so the chances are high that a bang exists for the site that you want to use. If for some reason it doesn’t, you can make a suggestion for a website to add. You can use bangs directly from the search bar on DuckDuckGo.com or via the address bar in your browser if you make DuckDuckGo your default search provider.

DuckDuckGo Bangs

Is DuckDuckGo a Good Option for Schools?

Both Microsoft and Google have strict privacy options in regards to how it handles the data from teachers and students who use their services. That said, there is no reason I can think of as to why a school couldn’t use DuckDuckGo as the default search engine on school devices. For instance, it could form part of a great conversation around how the web works today. It is has safe search built-in by default and is also a great option for students when they graduate and are starting to think about using some of the same services as individuals – services that are not governed by the privacy agreements they were previously bound to between technology companies and their school.

Additional Resources for Schools: