Learners receive information from a vast array of media and digital resources every day. However, studies show that only 1 in 10 students can distinguish between fact and opinion. Educators face the challenge of ensuring that students learn to become more informed consumers and producers of digital content.

Search Coach, a Microsoft Learning Accelerator, provides students with real-time coaching on how to form more effective queries and understand reliable resources online. Search Coach can help educators enhance instruction by providing students with strategies for identifying credible sources while safely navigating the web, all within a secure, ad-free online search environment in Microsoft Teams.

Learn how two school districts have utilized Search Coach to enhance students’ information literacy skills and prepare students for the future.

Lake Washington School District: Developing critical thinkers using Search Coach

Lake Washington School District (LWSD), located east of Seattle, strives to prepare their 30,000+ students for the future, regardless of their college and career aspirations. For the past two decades, LWSD has integrated technology into all facets of teaching and learning to enhance knowledge.

Beyond utilizing technology as a teaching tool, educators in LWSD understand the need for students to be critical evaluators of the information they receive online. Educators often assume that, even at the high school level, students come to class with the ability to determine if sources are credible. Unfortunately, that is not always the case.

LWSD educators discovered that Search Coach can support students in understanding source credibility and teaches all students tips for more effective search queries.

“With Search Coach it’s a little bit more obvious which sites are reliable and which sites might not be. Having that trustworthy factor that’s part of the search in general is a great way for them to see, ‘well why isn’t this website trustworthy vs this one is rate very highly.’”- Kristen Popescu, high school science teacher, Lake Washington School District

Search Coach user interface showing the NewsGuard credibility score.

Students in LWSD appreciate the ease of using Search Coach in Teams for Education to narrow their search results by domain and date range to ensure they access the most up-to-date, relevant, and credible information. Abigail, a student in LWSD, relates that using Search Coach is “so much simpler than going through the regular internet and seeing all these .com websites I have to skip over.”

Search Coach allows you to select which domains to trust, or not

“Accessing information, evaluating information, and then using it with integrity is the goal... Search Coach is part of that process... as we teach students to be better users of information.” - Amber Peterson, Teacher Librarian, International Community School, Lake Washington School District  

Napier Boys’ School: Pushing students to think critically with Search Coach

Napier Boys’ High School in New Zealand has been a leading secondary school for over 125 years, with a focus on a 21st century approach to education. They use Microsoft 365, including Teams for Education, for teaching and learning and have recently introduced Search Coach to their students. Staff at Napier emphasize that Search Coach equips students with tools to be more proficient at searching for information, a fundamental way students use computers in school and long after they’ve graduated.

“A lot of times when our students search for things, they actually don't know what they're searching for. I think Search Coach simplifies those ideas for them... I think that's the goal of Search Coach, to give them the ability to make that search a little bit easier.” - Jared Williams, Headmaster, Napier Boy’s High School

Staff at Napier also appreciate Search Coach’s partnership with NewsGuard, a company that objectively rates thousands of websites. Students are prompted to think more critically about the information they receive because, as John Stapley, Head of Technology at Napier, states, “now every site has a rating that helps generate different perspectives and controls where your information is coming from.”

“Students don’t often know how to use search effectively. That’s what Search Coach does—it turns students into critical thinkers and researchers.” - John Stapley, Head of Digital Technology, Napier Boy’s High School

Realizing the power of Search Coach to improve student research, Stapley and his team developed a Search Coach course. They’ve added their own curricula to supplement existing lesson plans, organizing content into units and chapters by critical information literacy skills. They have continued to refine the course, and the results are already paying dividends.

“Students don’t often know how to use search effectively. Microsoft Excel is a great model for comparison: lots of people use Excel yet they probably use less than 10% of what Excel can do for them, even though they think they are good at using it. This is the same delta with online search. People go to the Internet and search to get answers and find some information, but they rarely look at the results and think, ‘Is this really true? Is this the best information I could find? Am I conning myself and learning something that is not accurate?’ That’s what Search Coach does—it turns students into critical thinkers and researchers.” - John Stapley, Head of Digital Technology, Napier Boy’s High School

Microsoft Search Coach provides students with a much-needed boost to critical skills that will define ongoing learning and information retrieval over their lifetimes. Call it future-ready skills, 21st-century learning, or just a commitment to excellence, Search Coach has helped students become better researchers. Through real-time feedback and coaching, it sharpens students’ critical thinking skills, maintaining a Napier tradition of developing informed and successful future citizens.

Through real-time coaching and feedback, Search Coach enables students to develop their critical thinking and information literacy skills to better prepare them for the future.