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Posts tagged ‘search’

5 great Google search tips

The good news about Google search?

It searches something like 97 bazillion web sites. Whatever you’re looking for is in there somewhere.

The bad news about Google search?

It searches something like 97 bazillion web sites. Whatever you’re looking for is in there somewhere.

Using Google can be a powerful tool but you and your students often spend way too much time trying to find what you’re looking for. The good news is that Google provides a variety of built-in search strategies that can assist in your search. These strategies deliver quality results while saving you time.

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FindTheBest, data, and US Presidents

If you’ve played with the Wolfram|Alpha search tool, you’ll have some idea of how FindTheBest works. Both sites provide access to objective data sets and an easy way to organize the data. FindTheBest is a bit limited in the size and scope of its data but there’s still some useful stuff in there that social studies teachers can use.

At FindTheBest, we present you with the facts stripped of any marketing influence so that you can make quick and informed decisions. We present the facts in easy-to-use tables with smart filters, so that you can decide what is best.

Too often, marketers and pay-to-play sites team up to present carefully crafted advertisements as objective “best of” lists. As a result, it has become difficult and time consuming to distinguish objective information from paid placements. Our goal is to become a trusted source in assisting you in life’s important decisions.

Try out the list of US presidents and their First Ladies.

The beauty of FindTheBest is the ability to make side-by-side comparisons so feel free to set up a Clinton v. Reagan showdown or compare Obama v. Romney.

They also have some handy sets on Historical Empires and Places. A list of TED talks. And a nice chunk of CIA Country / World Fact data.

Need another reason to head over to FindTheBest? The Common Core people are asking us to train our kids to use data and charts, to learn compare and contrast. This seems perfect for that.

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Web searching: Your kids are doing it wrong

No offense but your kids are doing it wrong. I’m just saying.

I’ve spent the last few months in a lot of social studies classrooms and I keep seeing the same thing. Kids who are wasting a lot of time searching for stuff. They can’t search effectively, ending up with results that aren’t useful.

Part of the problem is that we assume they know what they’re doing. The other part of the problem is that we hope they know what they’re doing cause we don’t have a clue. So teachers and students are banging around on the interwebs, grateful for whatever Google spits out.

And, yes, I know some teachers and kids who are search studs. But most struggle. We can do better. Start here – a quick article I put together for the TeachingHistory folks that outlines a few very simple things that can have a huge impact on your search results.

Then take yourself and your kids over to the very new, very cool, very useful Google Search Education site and get ready to learn some new skills.

Web search can be a remarkable tool for students, and a bit of instruction in how to search for academic sources will help your students become critical thinkers and independent learners.

With the materials on this site, you can help your students become skilled searchers – whether they’re just starting out with search, or ready for more advanced training.

You’ll find handy lesson plans, videos, and fun search challenges.

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Google Search tools that you may have never heard of

Google.

Yes. It’s a noun. But more and more often, we use the word as a verb.

The problem? We really don’t know how to use it very well. A recent study claims that

students might have grown up with the language of the information age, but they do not necessarily know the grammar.

They can use Google but they seldom find the best results because they fail to understand how to structure their searches. And . . . us old people? Not much better.

So a few tips:

1. Use the advanced search feature at Google.com. Find the Advanced Search options by clicking the Gear symbol in the very top right hand corner of the Google.com screen.

After clicking Advanced Search, you’ll find a screen that lets you be very specific about what you are looking for. You and your kids need to start using this screen to add specific phrases, eliminate keywords that might appear in the results that you don’t want, search by date, search for a specific file type like PowerPoint or PDF, search in a specific domain such as CNN.com and in a specific areas of a web site such as the title.

2. And once you get your results back, be sure to use the filters and tools along the left-hand side of the screen. A default Google search looks for everything but you can also narrow the search to images, videos, books, blogs, places and discussions.

You can also use a variety of tools to filter your results even further. I especially like the Sites with Images, Timeline, Dictionary and Reading Level. This one is especially helpful as you differentiate your instruction. You and students need to also take advantage of the Time filter, allowing you to be very specific about the age of your results.

3. Want to search with your voice rather than typing into a search box? Try Voice Search. Right now it works just with the Google Chrome browser but once you get used to it, it can save some serious time.

4. The Google Image search has similar filters to the left. Search by file size, type of image and time.

5. Search for images with an actual image rather by text. This allows you to search Google’s database by inserting a photo of the battle of Gettysburg, for example, and getting results based on that image. While at the Google Images search page, click the camera icon within the search box. You’ll can find information about the photographer, data about the image, online sites that incorporate that image and links to other relevant information. This new search works with landmarks, pieces of art, logos and more.

6. Need some review? How about a great big classroom poster with tons of search tips? Google’s got ‘em.

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Sweet Search & Web and Technology in the Social Studies

I’ve messed with Sweet Search and findingDulcinea in the past but haven’t spent a lot of time over there. During a recent conversation with Mark Moran, founder of both tools, he shared a Sweet Search page that looks very useful.

Using the Web and Technology in Social Studies Class has a wide range of resources that can help you as you integrate technology and online tools into your instruction. I especially like the web research tips and specific topic collections like Conflict in Pakistan.

There are also almost 30 Web Guides – ranging from generic subjects like middle school social studies to more specific topics like the Roaring Twenties.

There is also a nice link titled 101 Great Sites for Social Studies Class that lists some very cool places.

And while these resources are designed for teachers, Sweet Search is actually aimed at students. Searching a very small database, Sweet Search provides a nice alternative to Google and other like-minded search tools.

We search only the 35,000 Web sites that our staff of research experts and librarians and teachers have evaluated and approved when creating the content on findingDulcinea.

SweetSearch helps students find outstanding information, faster. It enables them to determine the most relevant results from a list of credible resources, and makes it much easier for them to find primary sources.

So . . . start with the handy social studies resources and then give Sweet Search a try. And be sure to pass it on to your kids!

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Search Engine Optimization & Quality Instruction

While I do have a pretty good understanding of how the Net works and how sites and search tools interact, there’s been some new learning going on over the last few months.

Most of the new stuff that I’m picking up deals with the concept of Search Engine Optimization (known as SEO). In the business world, SEO basically focuses on ways to connect people with products so that businesses makes money.

In our world, we’ve been talking about SEO as a way to connect with other people as well as appropriate educational content. And while it’s been useful for that, I’m beginning to see some connections between SEO principles and the classroom.

The whole idea is still a bit fuzzy in my mind but it seems as if there’s some overlap between SEO principles and quality instruction.

Quality Site Content

SEO experts talk about providing frequently updated, quality content that people want to read. In the world of the web, it all starts with stuff that people like.

Translated into the education world? Teachers need to be current in their content area and that content needs to be presented in an engaging way.

Content Organization

Lots of people create content, it’s the organizing of the content that becomes key.

Education world? We need to use tools and strategies like Understanding by Design and Differentiated Instruction to ensure that our quality content is delivered in a way that makes sense to kids.

Keyword Research

SEO wonks spend tons of time making sure that specific keywords get special attention. But they often forget how those keywords can become meaningless unless they fit into a bigger picture.

Education connection? Teachers can spend too much time on minutiae – dates of battles, middle names of presidents, the largest 250 bodies of water in the US – and lose sight of larger concepts such as people move for specific reasons and democracy is a good thing.

Links

To connect people with their business, SEO folks work to create links between their sites and others. The more links and trackbacks, the better.

Teachers need to be doing the same thing. We need to find ways to link to stuff and people and content and tools that live outside out classrooms. The more links we can make, the better.

Be patient and don’t forget the people

The most important thing that the SEO experts often suggest is that you should never forget that people are the purpose. All of the great content, the links and the useful keywords won’t mean anything if you forget why you’re doing all this work in the first place. The process is important but the end user, the actual person on the other end of the line, is the reason for what we do.

I think it’s also easy to sometimes get too caught up in the process of teaching. We need to remember the end user of everything we do. All of the great curriculum and engaging strategies won’t make a difference unless we actually care about the kids we see everyday. They’ll know when we don’t!

I still need to play around with this a bit more but it’s starting to make sense. Curious to hear what others might be thinking.

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