Accessing and Assessing the Internet's Vast Resources
The Internet is a library of unimaginable size and scope that continually grows by leaps and bounds, even in the amount of time it took to write this sentence. Take a look at this infographic citing data provided by computer chipmaker Intel that illustrates the amount of information and activity that takes place in just 60 seconds of time:
What are the necessary skills we need to teach our students to be able to weed through and whittle down such a vast amount of information on the web?
Full-Text, Keyword, and Boolean Searches
- Think of full-text searching as the broadest way to search. It is useful when you are first searching and looking for entries covering many aspects of a topic. For example, if you type in "learning technology" to Google, you will get about 1,310,000,000 results, including histories of learning technologies, blogs of learning futurists, professional organizations, government reports, and pictures related to learning technologies and more.
- You can use a more refined process for finding exact matches by using keyword searches, where you use quotes around the term to return only resources where that term is in the title, keyword, or description. For example, when you type in "mobile learning" (a subset of learning technology), only about 294,000,000 results are shown - considerably less than full-text search, but more targeted to what you're looking for.
- Finally, you can use a Boolean search to create even more targeted results. You would use words like AND (+), OR, NOT (-) and NEAR to limit, widen, or define your search. Take a moment to review a tutorial created by Colorado State University for using Boolean searches at: http://lib.colostate.edu/tutorials/boolean.html
Want a neat way to show your students proper search techniques? Check out Let Me Google That For You (LMGTFY), a website that allows you to quickly create a short video showing how to conduct a search. Just visit the site, type in your search term, and it creates the video for you! Check out the example I made to see how it can work.
Filtering Search Results
Most search engines allow you to filter and refine your search results by content type, publish date, location, language, and even color, size, and usage rights on images. Another feature of Google is the 'Safe Search' feature, which ensures that sexually explicit videos and images will be filtered out of search results, along with results that might link to explicit content. Students who are aware of these capabilities will have a much easier time locating relevant information without having to weed through irrelevant results.
Finding Text on a Webpage
Once a credible webpage has been found, students need to know how to quickly locate the information or terms in which they were originally searching. Luckily, you don't have to scroll down through lines and lines of text and waste time reading all parts of a webpage. Using your keyboard, press Ctrl-f, and you'll be able to search for any word or phrase on the web page that you're on.
Press the Ctrl Key + F on your Keyboard, and search the word 'information' on this very page (if you're on a Mac, it might be Cmd + F).
How many times did you find the word? Hover here to find out if you're correct!
You have many resources at your disposal to get up to speed and teach your students about effectively accessing Internet resources. One such resource you could explore as a M-W-B activity is an entire series of classes on Power Searching with Google.
Take a moment to watch a particularly helpful three minute video on the most critical tools you and your students can leverage to search more powerfully (what I love about this is that older students are teaching younger students the tips/tricks for searching):
Notice in this section we're shifting our study to assessing information. Once students locate information, they need to be able to discern it's credibility, validity, and relevance. Take a moment to view this video from the University of Victoria Libraries that illustrates why it is so important to be able to do this:
Still worried about letting your students search freely on the open web? No problem! Set up your own custom Google Search engine, and pre-select the sites that students can search. See the video below for a demonstration from YouTube user ReadingRoadrunner of how this works: