Here is my
on-line handout for the ICT training session that I ran at Musselburgh Grammar School
In some ways the title to this handout is false, I think Google is a fantastic search engine. However, I also believe that many children and adults do not know how to search the internet properly. During project work on the internet I have observed lots of students type something into a search engine, which returns 1000+ results and then just click on the first item, because it is on the top of the Google or Yahoo return list.
Searching the internet is the most fundamental and important Internet skill, but most of us still do it badly. I can compare it to forward paddling in kayaking. Vital but normally done inefficiently.
Ten Top Tip’s
Alan Crucichank posted this link to a Microsoft website earlier in the year. The page is entitled ten tips for finding information on the Internet. Many competent web users will know about most of these things already but I think the list is worth a basic recap and I have adapted the tips slightly below.
Tip 1: Use the advanced search function
Many search engines such as Google and Yahoo have an advanced search engine. Train you students (and yourself) to use this straight away rather than as an afterthought.
Tip 2: Search with a Phrase
If you type Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway into most search engines it will it will look for posts with the words Ant, Dec, Saturday, Night and Takeaway in the title. However if you search for “Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway” with speak marks around your search phrase it will return only the posts where the words appear in this order.
Tip 3: Be Specific
We are all guilty of this. If pupils are doing a project on cars, they will just search for cars. We need to get them to think about being more specific. For example, could you search for VW cars or VW Cars Beatles or VW Cars Beatles engine size?
Tip 4: Use alternative search words
If you’re doing a project on dogs search for dogs, hounds, canines, mutts, pooch, mans best friend etc… A good tip is to use an online thesaurus to generate alternative words check out www.thesaurus.com
Tip 5: Use plus (+) and minus (-) signs
is best described as an example. In a search engine if you type “city
guide” +Edinburgh it will return all hits for city guides with the word Edinburgh on the page. If you
types python –Monty it would return hits about pythons but not include
sketches about spam, lumberjacks and albatrosses.
Tip 6: Eliminate inappropriate content
This is normally done in the advanced search menu. Believe it or not most search engines on computers at school will not be set to ‘safe search’ so rely on websence and the schools firewall to block out inappropriate content. Unfortunately I don’t think you can set safe search as a default?
Tip 7: Just search the domain name
have been to a web site before and you know a particular article exists but you
can’t find it. You can just search the domain name. For example if I wanted to
search for mentions of Musselburgh Grammar School on the
East Lothian Council Website I would type musselburgh
grammar school site:www.eastlothian.gov.uk into my search engine.
Tip 8: Search for a specific file.
Google advanced search lets you do this to a certain extent (see the screen shot below). But you can also search for other types of file. For example if you we looking for a flash animation of a the formation of a waterfall you could type formation of waterfall filetype:swf into a search engine. swf stand for shockwave flash animation. If you wrote filetype:doc the search would return only word documents similarly filetype:jpg would return only pictures.
Tip 9: Explore the best of sites
Some search engines only search the best sites on the Internet (although I’m never sure who decides they are the best!). A good one to use is www.about.com
Tip 10: Explore alternative search engines
Don’t just sick with a standard Google or Yahoo search there are some other options out there in cyberspace. Below are a couple of the one’s that I demonstrated:
www.searchmash.com is currently my search engine of choice. It is a Google side project, which means it returns searches directly from Google. But in the right hand side bar it also allows you to search blogs, images, video and Wikipedia. Click here to see what a return from Musselburgh Grammar produced on searchmash.
As well as a standard or advanced Google search you are also able to channel your search in specific directions. Google news is a good example of this. It allows you to search the digital content of newspapers and news web sites. You can also subscribe to the feed. Take a second to think about what this means……you could put Musselburgh Grammar into a Google news search. This will return a page that lists news mentions of Musselburgh Grammar. You can subscribe to this page using a RRS aggregator (bloglines, Google reader, pageflakes etc…) and every time a new news item is written about Musselburgh Grammar and uploaded to the web you will instantly be delivered an up-to-date article.
Google Book Search and Blog Search
Have you ever heard of the Deep or Invisible web? Google searches over eight billion referenced web pages but these are only on the visible web. The deep or invisible web is said to be 500 times larger (mind blowing) some web search engines are specifically designed to penetrate the deep web and my preferred search engine is www.clusty.com why don’t you check it out?
For more information on the deep web have a look at the following article http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deep_web
Nothing is really ever deleted from the internet. Have a look at www.archive.org for thousands of images, videos and old web pages that search engines can’t find any more.
The Russians that put this together must have far too much time on their hands. But I really think this type of search engine has great potential top help train students to search the web in a better way. First you type in your search query:
Quintura produces the words that are most associated with this query with it on the web. The bigger the word the more mentions it gets. To narrow your search down you pick one of the words it suggests:
And then another:
Until you find what you’re looking for.
The introductory session finished by showing people pageflakes. Will Richardson first introduced this to me and as I have mentioned before I think this would be a good and simple way of training to introduced people to RSS and social bookmarking. I will go into more detail of how to use pageflakes in the screen cast of this presentation.
I finished up by showing people the future of search technology. Web sites including www.like.com have introduced visual searching. I think it’s scary! Although the site has been built for commercial reasons I think its amazing that a website is now clever enough to find me a pair of shoes that are a colours, shape and price that I specify.
The web site that I used to translate the Learning Intentions for the session into ‘text speak’ was www.lingo2word.com. Have a look at it, it’s a great way to introduce your learning intentions in a different way and will get you a smile in class!