Join Oliver Schinkten for an in-depth discussion in this video Use keywords and filters with Google Search, part of Teacher Tech Tips.
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- The Internet has revolutionized the way we live our lives, as it gives us instant access to an enormous amount of information. One of the most important skills, and one we often overlook, though, is our ability to find valid and reliable information using the Internet. I'm Oliver Schinkten. Welcome to Teacher Tech Tips. This week, I want to raise awareness for the importance of teaching students how to effectively and efficiently find information online. The tool I'll be discussing is Google. Yep, the plain old search engine that has transformed everything.
I want to share a quick story. A couple of years ago, at the high school I was teaching at, I decided to set up a fun activity for my students that would determine how well they could use the search engine. My goal was to set up a research tournament in which, each round, four students would face off against one another to answer a question that I posted in the front of the room. I created a tournament bracket, and determined that the first two students to find the correct answer would move on to the next round. These are the guidelines I had in the tournament. Four students participate at a time.
Each student had a Chromebook. I posed a question at the front of the room, and the top two students from each round would advance to the next round. The class seemed excited to play, and once the four students at the top of the bracket were seated and ready to go, I posted the first question. This was the question: I challenge you to pause the video right now and use the Internet to try to find this answer.
How did you do? The name of the county is Pierce. The university is the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. And the chancellor, at the time of this recording, is Dean Van Galen. Did you get it right? As I posted this question to the first four students, I figured it would take under a minute for them to get it correct. I waited to see who would be the first two to get it correct and advance to the next round. One minute passed, and I thought they would have had it by now. Then two minutes passed, three minutes, four minutes, and finally, after five minutes, I asked them what was going on.
One student stood up and said they had the answer, and they gave me their piece of paper. But the answer was wrong. The other three admitted that they couldn't find the answer. And, to me, this was concerning. I wasn't sure what to do as far as who would advance from that round. But I decided to give the next four students a chance. I posted another multi-step question, much like the first, and about 30 seconds later, a student popped up and handed me the correct answer. However, after five minutes, the other three admitted they couldn't find the answer. I want to raise one very important point: I did, and I was wrong.
After this, I began to include more contests like this into my class, ranging all the way from simple trivia questions to more complex, multi-step questions that they would use the Internet to try to find. And what I found out was that my students were not very effective at using Google. So what were these students doing wrong? Well, one thing I found is that they were lacking some very important research skills. First of all, they weren't able to break questions down. When I asked students who had gotten that first question wrong what they were doing, they told me.
They were typing in the entire question into Google, as if it was a person. They were typing, "In Wisconsin, there's a county that was named after the 14th President of the United States, in this county," et cetera, et cetera, instead of breaking the question down into smaller parts. Another thing is that they didn't have a good understanding of keywords. I think that we are at a time, right now, when keywords and vocabulary are more important than ever. If you are doing research on the Internet because your head hurts, and you want to look up what you should do, it's probably good to know that terms like headache or migraine might be useful.
Students were also not familiar with the built-in filters within some of these search engines, and they didn't know many tips or tricks to improve their searches. Let's take a look at these last two points. So, right now I'm obviously on the Google page, and I want to do some research on the way that chimpanzees travel together. So, in here, I could type in, "chimpanzees travel together," but the problem with this search is that now Google is going to find any article, site, or resource that has the words chimpanzees in it, travel in it, and together in it.
They can be anywhere within the article, and they don't even have to be together. If I click Search, we'll see that I get a return of 520,000 results. So there's a ton of results. But these are all results that have at least the word chimpanzees in it, the word travel in it, and the word together. But if I wanted all of these words to stay together, in other words, I wanted to find resources that had the word chimpanzees travel together, all in one chunk, then all I need to do is to put quotations around it.
If I do this, and click Search, we'll see now that it returns 254 results, because it's much more filtered and much more specific. Another example is if I search the word "bears". Let's say I'm doing research on the animals, "bears". But when I search, I find a lot of stuff about the Chicago Bears, and not surprisingly. Now, if I didn't want this to be the case, what I can do is use a feature in Google in that, when I hit the minus sign, and then a word, it will eliminate that word from the search.
In other words, if I want to find things that have the word "bears" in it, but not football, or not NFL, I can type it like this. I'll hit Search, and as you can see, with the exception of a Twitter account, I'm finding mostly resources on the animal bears. This is good way to narrow down searches as well. Another important thing to understand are the built-in filters. So, first of all, I could search for all resources. I could search for just news. I could search for images, videos, shopping, and there's more categories.
I can also use the Search tools. So, right now I'm searching for news articles on bears. So if I click on Search Tools, I can adjust this by All News, or do I want to look on blogs? Do I want recent, and how recent? Do I want articles that were updated in the past hour, past 24 hours, past week, past year? This is a great way to help students to find more up-to-date and relevant resources by using this feature. And then, I can sort it by relevance, or by date, if I want to find the most up-to-date.
Now, if I go back to All, and click on Search tools, I'll get slightly different ones, but here I can search again by the time, all results are verbatim, and then even my location. So, using these Search filters on Google can be a great first step to getting better at using the Search engine correctly. My challenge is for you to learn more about effectively using search engines, like Google, and then taking the time to share this knowledge with your students. The Internet give us access to an incredible amount of information, but we need to be able to find it first.