Ed Tech Ideas

Tech Integration for Busy Teachers

Category Archives: Internet Research

Think Wikipedia Isn’t Useful to Students? Think Again

Here’s a nice infographic showing facts and information about Wikipedia. A couple of things really caught my attention:

  1. 8 out of 10 students turn to Wikipedia for their first source of research.
  2. Fewer teachers are banning Wikipedia from being used for research.
  3. 56% of students will halt research if little information is found on Wikipedia.
As educators, we need to help students become better researchers, showing them that while Wikipedia is a resource, it is not the end-all-be-all and should be thought of as such. Most teachers require several sources to be used while doing research and Wikipedia is the king of citing other sources at the bottom of every page. This makes Wikipedia a great starting point for any research, not an ending point.

Via: Open-Site.org


Thank You 2011!

Be a Political Trend Spotter

If you have students interested in the presidential campaigns in the US, they can now become an official political trend spotter. Google’s Politics and Elections Blog encourages political enthusiasts to submit current trends in the political race and have them featured on the site.

The blog features stories and issues, along with powerful search tools, relating to the ongoing political race in the United States; and how public interest, by use of the web, “can help transform politics and elections from a passive process to an active, participatory one.” There are fascinating posts with colorful graphics depicting current trends in everything from which candidate’s book is more interesting, to which department the federal government should cut.

Encourage your students to submit the political trends that they spot, and they too, just might become an official Google Political Trend Spotter!

Search Techniques with Google

When searching the internet, students generally go straight to Google, type in a query and use the first hit that comes up. Often times, this may be adequate, depending on what they are trying to discover. However, when researching information for a project they are working on, more advanced searching techniques need to be applied, and most students (particularly at the elementary level) are limited in this ability. Enter (of all things) Google. Google has created what they’re calling the “Search Education Evangelism Site“.

Lesson Plans

Start out
(Basic lessons)
Step up
(Intermediate lessons)
On top
(Advanced lessons)
Understanding search engines What is the Web? Google landing
The keys to search city
Search technique and strategies Which links should I follow?
Mixed media
Believe it or not
Features and operators Hello operator
Quick finds
Slicing & dicing

The site contains 9 different lesson plans (as shown above)  for teachers that focus on the basics (what is the web) to refining search techniques, to more advanced features of inquiry.  Below is an example of one of the presentations that are included within each lesson plan:

For more ideas on teaching children to become better online researchers, read Web Searching – Don’t Believe Everything you Read Online, an article I wrote for ISTE’s Leading and Learning with Technology magazine.

Google Instant

Google rolled out its new search enhancement today which instantly shows your search result as you are typing. Google claims that you can save 2-5 seconds with every search. The way it works is that you simply begin typing and results appear instantly. For example, when I type the letter w, search results for weather appear. If that is what I was looking for, I can use the tab key and hit enter to complete the search, or use the arrow keys to navigate the options and go to the first page.

I like the new search feature, and I think this, in a way will help students become faster researchers.

Web Searching – Don’t Believe Everything you Read Online

One of my 4th grade classes is about to embark on a research project, so in a recent lesson, I decided to teach and hone their research skills. Not wanting to go the standard route of, how to Google more efficiently, I chose to select 2 topics, have the students search for information on one of those topics, and then share what they have learned. The 2 topics students could choose from were, the Tree Octopus and All About Explorers. (Note: I did skew the activity purposefully by telling them that they had to search for those exact phrases).

Most students went directly to Google and without much thought clicked on the first link and began writing down “factual” information about their chosen topic. Some facts that were discovered included:

  • Christopher Columbus was born in 1951 in Sydney, Australia.
  • Marco Polo, Bill Gates, and Sam Walton, helped finance Magellan’s expedition to the Spice Islands.
  • Lewis and Clark were inspired to become world-famous explorers after being mesmerized by the stunning color photographs in National Geographic magazine.
  • The Pacific Northwest tree octopus (Octopus paxarbolis) can be found in the temperate rainforests of the Olympic Peninsula on the west coast of North America.
  • Unlike most other cephalopods, tree octopuses are amphibious, spending only their early life and the period of their mating season in their ancestral aquatic environment.
  • Tree octopuses have eyesight comparable to humans.

And so on…

Actual "sighting" of the tree octopus

The students shared their findings with the class and as the discussion moved on, several of the students began to see some flaws in our research. We then began to inspect the websites more carefully and found many erroneous claims and facts throughout.  The students were stupefied and couldn’t believe that there were websites that look so real (one student said, “They even have pictures!”) but lie. They were even more amazed that these were the first two hits that Google presented them in their search.  We continued the discussion with what to look for in websites that are reputable, using the “5 W’s”: Who, What, When, Where, and Why, looking for url suffixes (.edu, .gov, etc.), and how to double-check sources.

I’ve done many internet research lessons in the past but none have the lasting impact that this does.  The kids jump right into the task and roll along smoothly, impressed with how easy the task is and what good researchers they are. The harsh dose of reality at the culmination of the lesson truly sticks with students and really makes them think about facts and information they find on the web.

If you’d like to browse the sites mentioned above:


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