Monday, August 9, 2010

Different Hats: Google Search Tools - GTAUK part 4

On the first morning at GTAUK, Lisa Thurmann talked about Google search tools.  She asked:  How can we as educators help our students to organize and access their collection of information in useful ways?  Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.  Most of our students today take access to information for granted, but still struggle to find a way to make use of all the information they find.

Lisa talked about the different hats we wear, the different roles we take on, and how the different Google search tools would fit with the different hats we wear.  For example many teachers and students still start at the main Google page and type in their query, often resulting in millions of results.  As adults we are likely to look at a maximum of 7 of these results, students are more likely to just focus on the top 4.  It’s really unusual with this type of search for anyone to go beyond the first page.

However the new Google results page now looks different and allows you to refine the search: on the left hand side there are now links to news, blogs and so on.  A really useful tool is to click on the Wonder Wheel to refine the search.  Following on from this you can also look at the Timeline and check when the links were posted.  Google Scholar can refine the search further as it has been designed to search periodicals  - this will give students more timely documents to use in their research.  Then there is Google News which is a useful tool for current events.  Another great tool is the Updates – this will give you a live feed (including what is being written on Twitter).

Another tool that could be useful, Lisa suggested, is to go to Google Alerts and put an alert on a name, a blog, the school where you work and so on.  That way, anything new that is written will immediately be sent to you.  I can certainly see some advantages of this one …..

A new tool for me was the Google Labs tool Google Squared.  Lisa showed us how we can type in a word or phrase such as netbooks or document cameras and this will give you a spreadsheet with information, pictures, prices etc of these items.  Other uses of Google Squared could be typing in phrases such as great novels, planets, revolutions and so on. 

Lisa moved onto talk about wearing a creative hat:  one thorny issue I have faced this past year is that of copyright – in particular students taking images they have found using a Google image search and using these images in their work.  As teachers we have to model fair use for our students and our colleagues.  Using strict filtering in the Advanced search feature in Google images will allow students to search for copyright free images that they can use.  Of course they will still need to give credit for these images!

Moving away from the copyright issue, another great feature we were introduced to in Google images (not the advanced search) were the different search tools on the left that also now include searching for images with a certain colour theme (for example blue apples).  Once you have found an image that is close to what you are looking for, it’s possible to hover over it and then search for similar images.

Putting on yet another hat, the student hat, Lisa showed us Google Books.  I love the way you can see common words and phrases in a word cloud - clicking on the words brings you to the pages in the book where they occur. Google Books allows students to search the world’s libraries and browse the available pages which can they be saved in their own “Library” with bookshelves.  Google editions of eBooks are available in the cloud and can be viewed on any device online, though they are not downloadable.

A great tool for elementary students could be making your own Google custom search engine.  Often a teacher won’t want a student to search the whole web using Google, but would like to limit the sites students can search while still teaching them the skills they will eventually need to make a fuller search.  The Google custom search engine will focus students’ search on safe and relevant sites that you as the teacher have pre-selected.  This is possible by adding a list of sites you want students to query and a great advantage is that you can take ads off the pages.

If all this seems a bit confusing, Google for Educators has classroom lessons and resources to help teachers and students.  These lessons have been built by Google Certified teachers and are broken down into different grade levels and modules.  This is certainly something I am going to be showing to the teachers in my school once I return to work next week.

Photo Credit:  Rainbow Hats by Susanne Anette

1 comment:

  1. Google has such excellent helps for teachers, students, and every searcher. The tricky bit comes in knowing how and when to use them. I taught my students how to perform an advanced image search to only find images that are copyright free, they struggle with understanding that they can't just cite Google Images as the source of the image!