Searching Effectively with Google Search

Searching

We don’t need to memorize facts as we can search and find them online. We need to know how to access information that we want or need, how to evaluate the information that we find, use it as desired, and communicate it in ways that are useful and/or appropriate. This post is about step 1: finding information.

Creating a Google Search Query

I teach students about identifying keywords, because I think it’s useful for searching in directories and databases. Search engines tend to be a bit smarter, and are good at answering factual questions. So while it’s still important for children to be able to identify the keyword related to their question, it’s just as useful for them to phrase questions in such a way that the search algorithm returns useful results.

When starting a Google search, it’s as good a beginning as any to simply type in your question. Based on the results, you can refine your search using search operators.

Making Sense of Results

search results screen

1. Search Query
2. Featured Snippet
3. Search results
4. Knowledge Graph

You may notice featured snippets on some of your results pages. A featured snipped is a potential answer to your question, along with source information. There has been problems with the accuracy of featured snippets so it’s important to be a critical researcher, and not just trust the result in the box. Notice the feedback link at the bottom of the answer box; users can let Google know about their experience with the featured snippets.

Another element of Google Search results is the Knowledge Graph. The Knowledge Graph a sidebar at the right side of the page which presents “information about objects in the real world” (Google). The Knowledge Graph is great for jump starting research, for learning more about a topic, and for finding new wonders/curiosities that you may not have known to ask.

Examples of Searches

Here are some of the searches that you can do with answers in an answer box. I’ve put the ones that I use the most frequently first. Try out the queries that interest you:

  • picture of public domain whale or picture of whale CC0 (or other animal)
  • thank you in finnish (try other words in other languages) or type translate to get a translation widget
  • weather in prague (or other location)
  • time in Ottawa (can also phrase as a question)
  • timer, 2 minutes timer or stopwatch
  • calories in an egg (replace for other food)
  • 3 euros in czk or 1 ft in cm (replace the number and the units; can also phrase as a question)
  • calculator (or enter in a calculation)
  • define data visualization
  • population of prague (or other public data)
  • BA853 (or other flight number)
  • PRG to YOW (or other airport codes)
  • prague to vienna
  • sunrise prague or sunset prague (or other location or zip code)
  • sweet potato nutrition or sweet potato facts (or other food)
  • where was einstein born (or other quick facts)
  • easter (or other public holiday)
  • how to bake beets
  • flip a coin
  • roll a die
  • attractions prague (or other location)
  • goog (or other stock symbol)
  • asthma (or other medical condition, works better at http://google.com rather than http://google.cz – try both)
  • fox origin (or other word)
  • my events or my reservations or my flights
  • show me my photos in march 2016 (if you use Google photos)
  • area of a circle (or other shape)
  • volume of a cube (or other solid)
  • y=x^2 (or other formula)
  • what does a cat say (works for 10 animals; no fox :()
  • metronome

And now for the fun queries:

  • askew
  • do a barrel roll
  • zerg rush
  • google in 1998
  • atari breakout (image search)

Note that I usually type my search query to be as short as possible.

search queries

Sources:

Using IT Integration Walls in the Classroom

IT Integration Walls

An IT Integration wall is a great way to support student use of technology for learning in the classroom. You can take many different approaches to creating the wall. One approach is to create a poster of Just Right resources for your grade/students. Here’s an example from a Grade 2 classroom.

IT integration poster

Just Right Resources

In elementary school, we use the concept of “Just Right” apps and websites to help children understand that some websites are appropriate for children, while others are not. Students use bookmarks and QR codes to get to websites appropriate for use in the classroom.

This Grade 2 teacher included instructions of how to use Dropbox, as well as QR codes to resources for the current unit. The space can be as big, or as small as you want it to be. Involve students in the creation process, especially at older grades. If you or your technology coordinator has created instructions for using technology resources, incorporate these resources into the integration wall.

Managing the Wall

Implement the wall at the beginning of the school year, so that students get in the habit of solving problems themselves, and with the help of their peers. Have sections of the wall that will be useful throughout the year, as well as more dynamic sections that change with the unit or term.  Here are some ideas of how to involve students:

  • Have students submit a few websites that can be added to the wall.
  • Model the process for deciding if a site or app is Just Right, and involve students in the decision.
  • Invite students to create instructions for common tasks, to post on the wall.
  • Provide space and opportunity for student to identify their expertise and offer assistance to peers.
  • Track how often different resources are used on the wall, to know what to leave and what to replace. It could be a student’s job to analyze the use of resources.

Facilitating Student Support for Technology Integration

It can be really hard not to take control of a student’s mouse/keyboard/computer/iPad and solve problems for them. I have to constantly remind myself that learning isn’t about having students (or teachers) watch me solve their problems, and that I am doing students a disservice when I sacrifice their learning in the interest of speed. I often remind students to ask peers who are sitting nearby before asking me for help. This is to encourage the idea that we’re a community of learners and can learn from each other, not just from the teacher. Here’s one more idea to encourage student efficacy in technology use.

Create a board somewhere in your classroom of the tech skills/tools that you use. Have students write their name under each skill/tool that they can help others with. Allow students to go to each other for help in solving problems. You can limit the number of times that a student posts their name on the board. It’s also helpful to establish protocols on when and how students can get help from classroom experts. Consider how an expert may be able to indicate a desire to work undisturbed for some time.

Read & Write Extension for Accessibility in the Classroom

rw gdocs

Overview

rw extensionRead & Write is a family of tools to improve accessibility of digital resources to all students. As part of this suite, there is a free Chrome extension for teachers. Otherwise, the premium tools are free to use for 30 days. Read aloud and Translation continue to work in Google Docs after premium access expires.

The features of Read and Write include text to voice, dictionary support for digital text, word prediction during writing exercises, and study skills tools to support students in their research. The features work in web pages, as well as in documents saved in Google Drive. There is a handy toolmatcher that determines the appropriate tools in Read and Write for the particular student situation. If you check all the possible accommodations, you get the results below. You can download the results in a Microsoft Word format, which could be useful for documentation in an Individual Education Plan, or Student Support Program.

read and write tools

While I have just highlighted the accommodations for students, the Read and Write extension is also useful for teachers. One of the features that I find the most useful is voice comments/feedback to students. You can insert a voice comment right into a Google document, instead of text. Each recording has a 60 seconds limit. The sound recording saves to Google Drive, and presents to students as a link that they can click to listen. To use the extension after the 30 days trial period, make sure to register as a teacher.

1 minute recording saved voice comment

Dashboard

There is no teacher dashboard to manage this tool with the Google Chrome extension. It is a tool that is meant to improve accessibility and provide support for creating and reading digital text.

Grade Levels

Read & Write in general, and the Chrome extension in particular, can be used at every grade level.

Why use Read & Write

Read & Write is great for supporting students learning a second language, and students with special rights in the classroom. It is also useful for teachers, due to its integration with Google Drive, for teachers to provide feedback to students.

Features of Read & Write in the Classroom

Not all the tools in this help page are available in the Chrome Extension. The link is useful for finding out more details about each of the tools labelled below.

rw tools screenshot

Top image from toolbar in Google Doc; Bottom image from toolbar on webpage

Main Uses

  • text to speech
  • speech to text
  • voice comments
  • read aloud
  • translation
  • dictionary and picture dictionary

Platforms

Note that you must be connected to the internet to use this resource. It is available for the platforms generally used in schools:

  • Windows
  • Mac
  • Android
  • iOS
  • Google Chrome

Subject Area

All

Professional Learning

Login integrations

Users of the Chrome extension log in with their Google account.

Reviews

Better Search with Google

Google search box

Google is the most common search engine in the world. It’s likely that you used Google the last time that you wanted to look up something. How good are your search skills when using Google’s search engine?

9 Tips for Searching using Google Search

  • use the most accurate words possible in creating your query
  • ignore case and aim for correct spelling, but Google will suggest alternate spelling
  • put @ in front of a word to search social media
  • put # in front of a word to search hashtags
  • put in front of a word you’d like to exclude from the search e.g. -metal
  • use quotation marks to find an exact match e.g. “prague spring”
  • use OR to search for one of two or more things e.g. prague OR paris
  • use site: to search within a site e.g. site:.cz to find Czech websites
  • search for a file type e.g. filetype:pptx to find PowerPoint files

Quick Search Features in Google Search

Things that you can do in the Google search box (or the Chrome Omnibox):

  • define Omniboxtype define in front of  a word to get its definition
  • type weather and the name of a city to know the weather in that city e.g. weather prague
  • perform calculations by typing a formula
  • perform unit conversions e.g. 200 eur in usd

Bonus Search Tips

Make it all the way to the end for the rapid fire sharing!

Continue reading