My students have issues searching for information. They use search engines like Google in ways that seem strange to me. They type things like, “What year was Abraham Lincoln born in?” into the search bar and expect to get a good answer. Those of us from the pre-Google era know how an index works and know what a ‘keyword’ is. The students only know what an index is because sometime in thirrd grade they were taught, abstractly, what an index is. They have never had to use an index very much because they have had Google their whole lives. But then again, they can’t use Google very well because they don’t understand how an index works. It’s very catch-22, this problem.
Thankfully, I came across two resources from Google that helped my students understand all the wonderful things that a search engine can do if you ask the right questions.
The first is a set of lessons created by other teachers for Google. Presentations and several videos explain exactly what Google is and what it isn’t. The lessons also run through how to ask a good question and how to use the keywords to your advantage. The lessons on some of Google’s less well-known search options, such as its ability to translate text and speech, convert currency, find movie times and the nearest pizza, are also a lot of fun.
The second tool puts these search skills to the test in the form of a game that will soon be part of every technology lesson I give. Called ‘A Google a Day,’ it is a timed daily search quiz where kids use Google to answer trivia questions. It’s a lot of fun. It walks you through how to answer the question using the ‘hints’ feature. By using this, my students should become pros at searching in no time.