First thoughts on a web search curriculum

(I tried posting this to my Posterous blog as a work in progress but something wasn’t working.  So I am posting it here instead.)

Working through the Google Power search lessons has started me thinking about what an effective, inquiry based approach to teaching search might look like.  Here is what I have so far:

The paradigm shift for me is that search is about refining your ideas based on what ‘clues’ each set of search results has in them.  This is very different from the way I tried to teach search in the past which was all about trying to get less websites listed in the results, or to get the answer as the top result (as opposed to the third one).  So with that in mind my students need to think of themselves as Search Detectives, drilling down through the results and using the clues to refine their ideas.

To practice this we need questions.  I have been trying to decide if I have time to come up with a set of really good, open ended questions that students can investigate, and then I realised that these questions should come from the students.  Sounds good, but without proper coaching students will default to questions with one right answer; the kind that can be found by typing in the question only.

So, it seems to me that the start of a search curriculum should be an investigation on what makes a good question. Maybe co-create a ‘good question’ rubric with the students and then put them in groups and have them try to come up with good questions.  One of the criteria should be that you can’t find the answer by just typing in the question.  As we are an IB MYP school I can see the Areas of Interaction being used to focus these questions.

The important part that I like here is that if students get good at recognising the difference between a simple questions and an complicated, open ended question then they can be more nuanced in how they approach search.  They can make decisions about whether it is a question that they can just type into the search box, or one that they need to use more advanced techniques to solve.

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