Tuesday, August 30, 2011

A fun way to encourage students to improve Google search skills

I stumbled upon a cool way to encourage students (or anybody!) to buff up their Google search skills: A Google A Day! This summer, the Google Labs guys came up with this puzzle that pops up a new poser every day. There are multiple ways to solve each one, but only one right answer (does that sound familiar, research instructors???) But those who get stumped can click and get one suggested solution from Google, so there is a good clue there, too, a chance to learn if you can't get it on your own.

Because it's a puzzle, and light-handed, it might be a good way to get students to look at the excellent aids that Google puts out for users, and maybe get them to learn more about what's "under the hood" at their favorite web browser.

Google Basic Search Help

More Search Tips

Special Search Features (a lot of these are specialty things like weather, stock prices, earthquakes, but scroll down for more generally applicable things like using the + sign in your search to REQUIRE a particular word to appear in the results! That's especially helpful when you are wanting to search a phrase that includes a word like "and" that usually gets filtered out by search engines as being too common. A good example in law is "assault and battery." But you can also use it if your searches are popping up web pages that do not seem to include one of your terms. There are lots of other useful features, so keep checking this list.

And do not overlook the Search Tips Gallery, which used to be called Advanced Search. This gives you fill-in boxes to help you conduct more complicated searches. You can choose between searching Google Docs, a web search, Google Maps, or searching your Gmail, if you have an account for that.

Besides allowing their staff engineers and programmers to work on projects of their choosing, Google has another interesting way to develop new projects. Every summer, they select student programmers and engineers in a highly competitive system. This is called the Google Summer of Code. The students have made proposals of projects to work on, and release the code as open source for all to use. My daughter's programmer boyfriend was one such student programmer one summer. And I know of a library-intersection project that Google sponsored a few years ago, in 2007, that has resulted in one or more web-based cataloging applications (see Code{4}Lib post), and this post from the Disruptive Library Technology Jester.

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