Search That Fact
Imagine a contemporary trivia game show with teenage contestants pitted against each other to see who can find information the quickest. The host asks a series of factual questions across content areas (history, literature, science, music, etc.). Contestants type key words on their cell phones, which appear on large monitors placed above their heads for the audience to view. The winner is the one who is the most adroit at using a search engine to pinpoint the correct answer.
The ability to memorize has given way to the ability to search. A search engine is a database of web documents that are sorted using a mathematical algorithm to determine relevance. Search engine research requires an individual to determine the most salient characteristics of the fact needed, and the key words that the database will have pre-coded as relevant.
For example, in science class you learn that crickets tell the temperature, as the rate of crickets chirping mathematically corresponds to degrees. You can’t remember the equation and want to find it online. There are a minimum number of keywords needed to type (or speak) into a search engine to find the equation. You don’t need to compose a full question: “What is the equation for the rate of crickets chirping to temperature?” You need to generate two or three key words, or parts of words. The minimum for the crickets may be “cricket chirp temp”, which will provide you with the equation on the Farmer’s Almanac website (count the number of chirps within a 14 second time span and add 40 to get Fahrenheit).
SEE ALSO: Teaching With Mobile Technology
Specific skills are needed to find, evaluate, and share information using a digital medium. A student needs to complete a series of sequential tasks:
• Recognize the information required
• Formulate a question
• Identify the key words from the question
• Distill the key words to the minimum needed for search engine recognition
• Type the words into the search engine
• Scan a series of results
• Evaluate the top results for relevance (disregarding non-relevant results)
• Navigate to the webpage with the expected answer
• Scroll the webpage to locate the answer (ignoring non-relevant information)
Perhaps we could help students evaluate their own ability to locate information. We could provide cross-curricular questions and practice identifying key words. As a group, we could identify the minimum number of key words needed to determine the answer. Each student could offer key words. We could compare key word suggestions for similarities and differences and discuss interpretations of relevant concepts. We could test the key word combinations using a common search engine. Further lessons could target rapid scanning of webpages to locate information. We can address language goals of identifying key concepts and vocabulary, and locating relevant information digitally. There are numerous important lessons around the use of virtual mediums, including safety, authenticity, social media, etc. We can begin with the search.