How does someone find the answers to questions they might have? The answer is, unsurprisingly, to Google it. This should come without a shock. Before Google, AltaVista and Ask Jeeves reigned supreme. The answer for many has always been to turn to a search engine, type in a question, and pick one of the very first links.
Unfortunately, searching is skill to be honed, and one that students usually do not have. As noted in the Pro Tips for Searching Google Effectively in 2013 Infographic, “three out of four students couldn’t perform a ‘well-executed search’ on Google.” The article How Google Impacts the Way Students Think provides some answers to this. The author, Terry Heick, states that “Google creates the illusion of accessibility,” “Google naturally suggests ‘answers’ as stopping points,” and “Google obscures the interdependence of information.” Mr. Heick points out that Google “creates the illusion that answers are always within reach even when they’re not,” and that “if users can Google answers to questions they’re given, they’re likely terrible questions.” Mr. Heick also points out that users can “Google Abuse” at any time, being uncertain how to apply and synthesize the information they’ve found. In addition, the article How Teens Do Research in the Digital World states that teachers have a variety of concerns when it comes to students’ overdependence on search engines, including judgment of quality, literacy level, increasing distractions, poor time management, diminished critical thinking capacity, and plagiarism.
The article How Teens Do Research in the Digital World also states that teachers say that “a top priority in today’s classroom should be teaching students how to ‘judge the quality of online information.'” So, how do we make this a priority? The article True — Or Not? by Debbie Abilock shows the reader some rules of thumb for how they can begin doing some better online searching, including verifying the author(s), looking for bias, and verifying content. By doing these things, we can all become better searchers.
However, how would a school-wide approach to reflective searching come about? A school who uses inquiry-based learning methods. Using an inquiry-based learning model, students are taught to find the evidence and answer “how do I know this information?” Students in inquiry-based learning schools aren’t able to just answer questions, they have to provide answers with enough evidence to support their answers, in addition to finding factually accurate information.
As schools move more and more toward BYOT (bring your own technology) models and using web 2.0 tools, it is important that students understand exactly how to perform Internet searches, no matter what search engine they’re using – Google or otherwise.