Web Search and Education
The giant of web search is Google, and they have dedicated their business to the organization of information in such a way as to make it as accessible and usable as possible. To do this, they index billions of web pages full of online content. This content includes text, videos, music and more. They even branch out into physical media, where they categorize and index magazines, books and volumes of academic articles. All of this works toward the goal of allowing a user to quickly and easily search for a piece of information on demand. Google puts a lot of work into the structure and speed of their search engine to allow any user to find any piece of information as easily as possible. However not everyone has the same level of technical ability as habitual Internet users, and so the levels of search education vary. Google has researched the way people research, and does all it can to implement changes to make searching easier.
As it turns out, there way people search on the Internet is very different from the way searches are performed physically. Google is doing what it can to make the transition from physical research to online searching easy. Google’s first step is to change the way people think about search. The idea of flipping through card catalogs and thumbing reference books is outdated. People need a new way to validate information without sources.
They need a way to find new information that’s trending currently. The Internet has changed much of the way people think about information and culture, and Google is a large part of that.
One primary target for Google’s campaign is the classroom. It falls on teachers to teach their students how to think in a way that benefits them in the digital age. No longer can thoughts be dedicated to the process of locating information. Where to go or what reference to use, for example. Now thoughts need to be formulated to work with the current generation of search.
The appropriate format is to frame the thought into a question that can have an answer. This question, when put to a search engine, can provide a source of information for learning purposes. Google didn’t exist a little over a decade ago, but the thought patterns it’s creating in today’s generation will form lasting impressions of a lifetime. It’s goal is to create a generation of students that think in a way that drives them to learn, as a default rather than an exception. This creates a generation of people who are intelligent and constantly evolving, just like the content provided by the Internet. It eliminates static opinions and thoughts.
Providing Excellent Results
Google has put an exceptional amount of effort into the page of search results it provides. Every design decision is made with two goals in mind. The first is to provide information to those who are searching for it. The second is to provide advertising links and make a profit. Currently Google uses two sections of advertisements on the results page — one below the query and above the results, the other to the side of the page.
These often resemble search results but are different enough to warn users of their sponsored status. These are not to be confused with the local results Google provides, which are simple more focused and potentially relevant search results tied to a geographic location. The anatomy of a search result is just as important as it’s placement on the page and it’s presence on the page at all. Google has pared it down to a science. There’s a reason why other search engines copy the format. The title of the result is underlined in bold blue, allowing it to stand out.
In black text below it is a snippet of the result, showing a preview of the content available. Between the two, in green, is the actual URL of the page being shown. Google now also provides preview images of pages, as well as interlaced video results and other media results where applicable. Another important feature of a Google results page is hidden away from plain view. This is the toolbar of options provided to a searcher.
By default most searchers neither need nor want these extra options taking up space. Google still provides them a click away for those who deem them necessary. These options filter your results, change the formatting of the results page, and more. Of course, Google also provides the SafeSearch options, which allow the filtering of adult and questionable content.
The Organization of Search
Using Google for those who are practiced seems like an immediate access of information. A few words are typed and results clicked, and the information is there. However, there is a background of thinking that goes into this process. Before a query can even be typed, it must be formulated. This means answering important questions about the search.
- What is being searched for?
- How would that be written by someone posting the information online?
- What words are most likely to appear?
- What information is being searched for?
All of this informs the decision of what will be typed in the search bar and what results appear. Synonyms are important in searching, because the same question with a different synonym will offer different results. Too many included at once will make the results either too specific to be of use or too chaotic to provide valid information.
When information is proving hard to find, it’s often useful to browse one query’s results and use that information to form a new, more precise query. In this way the search for information evolves. Another important pitfall is the industry that has formed to skew search results. People want their pages at the top of rankings, because it gets them more traffic and more ad revenue. However, many underhanded practices have left results pages littered with links that provide no worthwhile content. This means a searcher needs to develop a sense of when a result is valid information and when one is spam.
Yet another pitfall is the varied nature of the content Google indexes. News, pictures, videos, music, maps, patents, and scholarly articles are all represented. Certain words, when used in queries, will specify a type of result. To find product reviews, the word ‘review’ is handy. If more general information is required, ‘wikipedia’ will bring up a wiki link to the topic, if one exists. There are dozens of category words to learn through experience. The process of searching is a gradual one to learn, but it boils down to three simple steps. First, think about what the search intends to find.
Second, determine what words are likely to appear on the page. Third, think about how that page’s author might write, and what might connect you to them. With this process, Google can bring a searcher to any result page they could imagine, with the proper query.
Google provides resources for students and teachers to help them learn the methods of thinking that modern research requires. Specifically, at www.google.com/educators/searchlessons Google provides resources for teachers. This includes several teaching modules to help teachers instruct students in the basics of web search and research. Google also provides study tips and and search tips as an instructional tutorial in the usage of their search engine.
The study tips, found at www.google.com/studytips bring awareness to other less used features of the Google search engine. Examples include Google Books and academic search, the use of search options and multilingual support, and more. Meanwhile www.google.com/insidesearch/features.htmloffers a wide variety of information on all aspects of Google’s search. Everything from spelling tips and tricks to advanced search functions to measurement conversion is represented.
Google puts a lot of stock in a person’s ability to learn their search intuitively and easily. They strive to present every option in a way that it’s present without being overwhelming. Each time a feature seems like a good idea, chances are it’s been implemented and is just waiting to be used. Students can take advantage of this by learning at their own pace, eventually reducing the act of search into an intuitive and fluid extension of daily life. Google has reached a balance of ubiquity and usefulness that few can claim to have reached. They bring this new research method to the world and use it to create a generation that succeeds.
A New Research Method
Google’s goal in the long term is the empowerment of those who seek out information. This includes students of all levels of education, teachers at any point in the system, and even those who search on their own. Every choice they have made in forming their search engine, search results and mechanics all stretches back to that goal. As the Internet progresses and Google indexes more and more information, it will be easier and easier to access anything that a mind could think up. In this way, Google is empowering teachers and students to change the way they think at the very core. They’re molding a generation of students to think more critically simply in the way they’re required to use search. This way of thinking extends to other aspects of the classroom and life itself.
Inspirational “TADO Future Search” video
Study becomes a question of phrasing information correctly. Questions in life are addressed with the same critical mindset. Even the most tech savvy students will find they can benefit from this analytic approach, based on simple study of the Google way. With Google, we raise a new generation of thinkers and problem solvers.