Search is the new literacy. When I was a kid, “Googling” something was not really an option. Now, I literally speak to my phone and it tells me the answers to things I want to know. Not only does the ability to Google things exist, I pretty much have access to it 24/7. That technology is not going to go away, it is only going to get better.
This reality SHOULD change how we teach.
Part of our teaching responsibilities is now to reach digital literacy and digital citizenship. This is the job of every teacher, regardless of subject area expertise. We may take for granted that students know how to “Google” something. They know how to type stuff into a search box, but likely they do not know how to do a good keyword search.
We have to teach students how to search well, assess the credibility of what they found and then what to do with the information once they found it.
When conducting a search you are not asking Google a question. You are trying to match the keywords in your search with words that appear on the page.
If your search has a question mark, you’re probably doing it wrong.
You are also not searching for topics, rather for the words that appear on the page of the search results. For example, if you look up dog research the word research may not appear anywhere on the web pages that you are hoping to find.
Practice Advanced Search Techniques
You can not teach students how to search if you don’t know advanced search techniques. Here are some resources to practice.
All Lessons Have Keywords
A shift in modern teaching is to move away from giving information to asking questions. Start your lesson with a question. Ask your students, even as young as Kindergarten, “what keywords should we search for?” Make a list of these on the board or flipchart. You do not have to do the Google search, but I suggest that you get in the habit of always getting students to think of keywords for each lesson. “If we were to search this, what search terms might we use?”
Before we loose kids on the Internet, we want to make sure they have the tools to effectively find information. Having conversations that embed the ideas of “how would we search for that?” help get students ready for conducting their own searches.
Make sure you have enabled safe search in your Google settings to have search results that are more appropriate for students. This is not foolproof.
Have your students try out “Be Internet Awesome” by Google.
Even if you know the answer to a question, model search techniques to students by searching the answer. “What search terms should we use for that?” Make questions like this a regular part of your instruction and when you’re working with students.
Build up to kids searching the answers to questions as a regular part of Classroom activities. The settings in Google Chrome allow for “OK Google” to be enabled. Young students can ask their search terms. Older students can add advanced search techniques such as Boolean operators.
Rather than just telling students to “Google it,” guide them through how they will Google the information they need.
Ask Better Questions
Questions that can be answered by a single Google Search are a great place to start searching with students. However, these tend to lack critical thinking and provide fewer opportunities for students to practice advanced search techniques.
Try to ask students questions that
- Require visiting multiple web pages to answer.
- Do not have a single answer. Students must justify their answer with evidence from credible sources.
- Do not have a clear answer. Perhaps questions that are debated by different groups. Students must gather the evidence to support their conclusion.
- Are less specific. The more specific the question the more likely the student can find the results on a single web page. If a question is about animals rather than the more specific dogs, students need to find information about multiple animals from multiple sources.
- Scaffold. When asking a larger essential question, provide smaller questions to help students get to the larger question. When students have no knowledge on a topic they do not know what questions to ask in order to search the larger question. Smaller questions can give them information that gives them knowledge they need to better understand what keywords to search for.
- Require a search to know what to search. As students search a concept they learn vocabulary and keywords they may not have known before they started searching. Ask students to identify new keywords they could search based on search results.