Tuesday, 12 February 2013

A teacher’s guide: helping students use Google Search effectively

Google Search: A Teachers Guide
In this article we consider the Google resources and lesson plans developed to help teachers and educators enhance their learners’ search skills.

Classroom tasks are becoming increasingly digitalised and, with greater access to the internet, teaching professionals are acknowledging the need for students to conduct greater levels of independent study and research. In the recent past, learners would head to their school or local library to refer to journals, newspapers and other literature. Nowadays, the first port of call for the majority will be Google and the somewhat infinite and instant access it offers to literary content.

This has significantly expanded students’ access to information from a wider range of sources, but conversely, it has also increased their access to misinformation and to material unrelated to an exam syllabus.

The common misconception among my learners is that if they read or reference something online then it must be true. Wikipedia is an obvious example that tends to underline this point, since many of them use the site on a weekly basis. Students are usually surprised when I tell them that content is often biased. The dominance of male editors or the self-appointed censors that enforce their views by persistently updating changed edits of a particular page mean that content can become inaccurate or subjective.

So how can we as educators help learners improve their online search skills and filter between the sources, without having to wade through endless pages of search results?

For many, teachers included, it can be difficult to establish an effective format for internet-related citations and citations on a work-cited page. I was no exception, which is why when I came across a way of quickly and accurately searching for information online, I had to share it!

Our classroom environments are changing and whether you’re teaching in a centre that is already iPad or tablet-centric or is at an early stage of investing in a more significant IT infrastructure, media and core technology skills are becoming essential to the academic and employability potential of young people.

Lesson ideas: Making the most of being online


If you’re not an ICT Manager or IT teacher then creating a lesson on enhancing search skills can be a daunting prospect, especially if like me, your learners are more familiar with technology than you are. That’s where Google comes in.

The search engine giant has prepared a series of lesson suggestions to get your students conducting more focused search enquiries. Google’s lesson ideas enable you to select between search-orientated literacy lessons and ‘a Google a day’ classroom challenges, broken down according to an individual’s learning levels.

Search literacy lessons

Used either as an in-class activity or an independent learning assignment, Google Search’s literacy lessons cover all aspects of conducting an effective search enquiry: from selecting the right search terms, understanding the results and narrowing the search, to conducting specific exploratory or investigative searches and advice on evaluating the credibility of the search responses.

Learners will be at different ability levels and some will pick things up faster than others but Google has separated each lesson into three learning levels: beginner, intermediate and advanced, which will help you to ensure students get the support they need.

Google daily challenge


A Google a Day: Lesson Plan

A Google a day’ has been developed to challenge an individual’s skill and understanding of online searching. Here, Google will issue students with a problem and students are tasked with finding the answer. Each daily challenge has been categorised and covers culture, history, science and geography. If a learner gets stuck or wants to identify the recommended search process they can easily access a step-by-step slideshow to reveal the answer.

Power searching


Once you and your learners develop a strong understanding of conducting effective online searches, you can continue to develop more sophisticated strategies and techniques using Google’s power-searching approach.

At an intermediate level, Google’s search experts offer an open enrolment course that prepares users on a range of key search areas such as ‘Word Order Matters’, SERP and ‘Translation and Search’. The community-based course aims to extend search skills by relating techniques and practices to real-life, everyday problems.

For those at a more advanced level, Google has created a registration-only two week course that challenges users to work through a timeline of complex search tasks.

Today’s learners are facing an increasingly competitive job market. In addition to achieving the academic accreditations required, softer skills such as search proficiency are becoming essential attributes for most young people as places for higher education and employment decline. As educators, it often falls on us to encourage development in these areas and, hopefully, with the lesson plans outlined, you’ll have a greater confidence to do just that.

Google Search is the world’s most popular search engine; if you’d like to consider others ways of engaging your learners here are a range of classroom tools from e-learning resources to recommended GCSE revision content.

Here at LearnersCloud we’re committed to ensuring students get access to the resources they need, when they need it. Follow @LearnersCloud on Twitter to get the latest how-to guides, teacher/parent advice articles and EdTech tutorials