In our world of information overload, one of the most important skills we can teach our students is how to use technology to find accurate information quickly. Theoretically, technology should be able to help us do that. However, many of the tricks of search are lost on most people because, as we so often hear, “you don’t know what you don’t know”. Web and information literacy is paramount to students being able to navigate this information age and as a teacher, it starts with you. Don’t assume that students already know how to find things online. Many of them do, but even those that do can be more efficient and have more effective searches. Because of that, I have three tips that you may or may not know that will help you find information faster. These tips don’t address the accuracy piece, but will get you started searching smarter.
Search a document, PDF or webpage
After doing and initial search for a specific term, you’re often given a large number of results and when you click on one, it could be a webpage, a pdf, or even a document. But now you have to figure out how whether or not this is the information that you need or if you need to go back to your search results and choose another link. Fortunately, you can do a quick search inside of the document for the same (or similar) term that was your initial search. By holding down the “CTRL” key and tapping “F”, a search window will launch somewhere on the page allowing you to type in your term and highlighting the term on the page. This can be especially useful for long documents, but it can also work well with spreadsheets, student lists, or other information. You can then quickly jump to the spot on the page that matches your search term to quickly see if you have found the information you need or if you should move on to another document.
Search for a specific phrase
When searching online, regardless of the search engine that you use, one of the ways that you can help to narrow down your search is by using double quotes to signify a phrase search. In other words, double quotes are used to keep words together so that the results you get are an exact match for the phrase you are looking for. For example, if you were to do a search for a poem that you had heard but couldn’t remember the full title but did know that it had the phrase “once the twilight” as a part of it, you could use a search engine to try to find and get more information about this poem. If you did a search for once the twilight, without quotation marks, you would end up with a number of search results about around books and movies, but nothing around poetry.
Search without quotation marks
However, by adding double quotation marks around your search you would get results that shows the poem was written by Dylan Thomas entitled, When once the twilight locks no longer. This simple tool keeps the words together and can help you narrow down your search quickly and easily.
Search with quotation marks
One thing to keep in mind, when you use the double quotations around your search, you are effectively eliminating any search that doesn’t specifically match that phrase exactly.
Search a Site
Finally, another quick way to narrow down your search when you’re using Google is to use the “Site” search operator. This tool will narrow your search down to a specific website giving you only results from that particular site. For example, suppose you were looking for information about the Mercury space program and knew that you wanted to find information only from NASA. By using the “Site” search operator, you can narrow down your search to only www.nasa.gov pages eliminating any sites from your search results that didn’t fall under the NASA website. To do this, you would type “Mercury site:nasa.gov” into the search box. As you can see, below, this type of search will only give you results from the NASA website.
This strategy is especially useful when you already know a site that has accurate, verified information.
Each of these searching strategies will not only help you, but they will also help your students navigate the online world. One of your most effective ways to teach this is just by using it in class as you work to find different passages or information online. Even if you know where the text is on the page, showing students that these tools are available can go a long way to helping them become more efficient digital citizens. For more search tips, visit the Inside Search Google page.
Curious as to where this fits with your curriculum? Search skills is definitely a part of the Common Core State Standards:
- K-12 College and Career Readiness (CCR) Anchor Standards for Writing (standard 8): Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, assess the credibility and accuracy of each source, and integrate the information while avoiding plagiarism.
- K-12 College and Career Readiness (CCR) Anchor Standards for Language (standard 6): Acquire and use accurately a range of general academic and domain-specific words and phrases sufficient for reading, writing, speaking, and listening at the college and career readiness level; demonstrate independence in gathering vocabulary knowledge when encountering an unknown term important to comprehension or expression.
Cross posted to the Northeast Middle School Friday Flyer.