Searching Effectively with Google Search

Searching

We don’t need to memorize facts as we can search and find them online. We need to know how to access information that we want or need, how to evaluate the information that we find, use it as desired, and communicate it in ways that are useful and/or appropriate. This post is about step 1: finding information.

Creating a Google Search Query

I teach students about identifying keywords, because I think it’s useful for searching in directories and databases. Search engines tend to be a bit smarter, and are good at answering factual questions. So while it’s still important for children to be able to identify the keyword related to their question, it’s just as useful for them to phrase questions in such a way that the search algorithm returns useful results.

When starting a Google search, it’s as good a beginning as any to simply type in your question. Based on the results, you can refine your search using search operators.

Making Sense of Results

search results screen

1. Search Query
2. Featured Snippet
3. Search results
4. Knowledge Graph

You may notice featured snippets on some of your results pages. A featured snipped is a potential answer to your question, along with source information. There has been problems with the accuracy of featured snippets so it’s important to be a critical researcher, and not just trust the result in the box. Notice the feedback link at the bottom of the answer box; users can let Google know about their experience with the featured snippets.

Another element of Google Search results is the Knowledge Graph. The Knowledge Graph a sidebar at the right side of the page which presents “information about objects in the real world” (Google). The Knowledge Graph is great for jump starting research, for learning more about a topic, and for finding new wonders/curiosities that you may not have known to ask.

Examples of Searches

Here are some of the searches that you can do with answers in an answer box. I’ve put the ones that I use the most frequently first. Try out the queries that interest you:

  • picture of public domain whale or picture of whale CC0 (or other animal)
  • thank you in finnish (try other words in other languages) or type translate to get a translation widget
  • weather in prague (or other location)
  • time in Ottawa (can also phrase as a question)
  • timer, 2 minutes timer or stopwatch
  • calories in an egg (replace for other food)
  • 3 euros in czk or 1 ft in cm (replace the number and the units; can also phrase as a question)
  • calculator (or enter in a calculation)
  • define data visualization
  • population of prague (or other public data)
  • BA853 (or other flight number)
  • PRG to YOW (or other airport codes)
  • prague to vienna
  • sunrise prague or sunset prague (or other location or zip code)
  • sweet potato nutrition or sweet potato facts (or other food)
  • where was einstein born (or other quick facts)
  • easter (or other public holiday)
  • how to bake beets
  • flip a coin
  • roll a die
  • attractions prague (or other location)
  • goog (or other stock symbol)
  • asthma (or other medical condition, works better at http://google.com rather than http://google.cz – try both)
  • fox origin (or other word)
  • my events or my reservations or my flights
  • show me my photos in march 2016 (if you use Google photos)
  • area of a circle (or other shape)
  • volume of a cube (or other solid)
  • y=x^2 (or other formula)
  • what does a cat say (works for 10 animals; no fox :()
  • metronome

And now for the fun queries:

  • askew
  • do a barrel roll
  • zerg rush
  • google in 1998
  • atari breakout (image search)

Note that I usually type my search query to be as short as possible.

search queries

Sources:

Spring Cleaning for your Mac

cleaning supplies

Sierra has included some new tools to manage storage on your Mac. However, if you have an earlier version of Mac OSX, these options are not available.  Cleaning your Mac is an important step in maintenance, and includes cleaning the hard drive, as well as the outside of your device.

Clean the Hardware

First off, turn off your computer and unplug it from power. Take your computer out of the case. Get a microfiber cloth, dampen it slightly, and wipe down your computer. You can also use the damp microfiber cloth on the screen. If you keyboard is extra dirty (I’ve seen some keyboards that I didn’t want to touch), use a soft toothbrush to get between the keys. Lifehacker explains that you can use a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser if you computer is greasy. We also have some LCD cleaning foam in the Idea Lab. Here are the official cleaning instructions from Apple.

Update your Software

Now’s a good time to update your software as well. I usually recommend that people do security updates as soon as they come out. Update your apps in the App Store, as well as your operating system, if your hardware is compatible.

Also, clean up your login items, those are the applications that automatically open when you start your computer. Go to System Preferences | Users and Groups | Login items, and delete the items that you don’t want to automatically open when you start your computer.

Make Space on your Hard Drive

  1. It’s okay to delete apps that you never use on your laptop. You may have installed something for testing, or for a short time, and kept it installed. If you no longer need it, delete it. You can do that by dragging them to the trash can. For a cleaner uninstall, you could use an app like AppCleaner.
  2. Clean out your old photos and videos, remove duplicates, and empty your Photos’ trash.
    • export old photos to an external drive
    • save old photos to Google Photos or to iCloud with optimized storage turned on (only available in Mac OSX Sierra)
  3. Clean out your download folders. Either move files into Documents or delete them.
  4. Organize your desktop. Delete saved screenshots that you no longer need, and move files into folders in Documents. If you can’t see your desktop, it’s a good idea to clean it up. If you want to move a file but be able to quickly access it from the Desktop, make an alias to the file on the Desktop after you move the file.icon for alias
    • To make an alias, click on the file with two finders and select Make Alias.
    • Drag the alias (it’s not a real file, just a pointer to a file as seen by the arrow on it) to the Desktop
  5. Use an app like Disk Inventory X to see the size of folders, or use the Finder to find large files.

To use finder to find large files:

  1. Open Finder, 
  2. Go to File | Find (shortcut CMD – F)
  3. Change Kind to File Size.
  4. Set the minimum File Size requirement e.g. 100 MB

find large files gif

Back Up

Use Time Machine to back up your hard drive, or copy your necessary files over to a back up hard drive. It’s a good idea to schedule a weekly back-up time in your calendar. I encourage you do that now, if  you haven’t done it before.

Using IT Integration Walls in the Classroom

IT Integration Walls

An IT Integration wall is a great way to support student use of technology for learning in the classroom. You can take many different approaches to creating the wall. One approach is to create a poster of Just Right resources for your grade/students. Here’s an example from a Grade 2 classroom.

IT integration poster

Just Right Resources

In elementary school, we use the concept of “Just Right” apps and websites to help children understand that some websites are appropriate for children, while others are not. Students use bookmarks and QR codes to get to websites appropriate for use in the classroom.

This Grade 2 teacher included instructions of how to use Dropbox, as well as QR codes to resources for the current unit. The space can be as big, or as small as you want it to be. Involve students in the creation process, especially at older grades. If you or your technology coordinator has created instructions for using technology resources, incorporate these resources into the integration wall.

Managing the Wall

Implement the wall at the beginning of the school year, so that students get in the habit of solving problems themselves, and with the help of their peers. Have sections of the wall that will be useful throughout the year, as well as more dynamic sections that change with the unit or term.  Here are some ideas of how to involve students:

  • Have students submit a few websites that can be added to the wall.
  • Model the process for deciding if a site or app is Just Right, and involve students in the decision.
  • Invite students to create instructions for common tasks, to post on the wall.
  • Provide space and opportunity for student to identify their expertise and offer assistance to peers.
  • Track how often different resources are used on the wall, to know what to leave and what to replace. It could be a student’s job to analyze the use of resources.

Facilitating Student Support for Technology Integration

It can be really hard not to take control of a student’s mouse/keyboard/computer/iPad and solve problems for them. I have to constantly remind myself that learning isn’t about having students (or teachers) watch me solve their problems, and that I am doing students a disservice when I sacrifice their learning in the interest of speed. I often remind students to ask peers who are sitting nearby before asking me for help. This is to encourage the idea that we’re a community of learners and can learn from each other, not just from the teacher. Here’s one more idea to encourage student efficacy in technology use.

Create a board somewhere in your classroom of the tech skills/tools that you use. Have students write their name under each skill/tool that they can help others with. Allow students to go to each other for help in solving problems. You can limit the number of times that a student posts their name on the board. It’s also helpful to establish protocols on when and how students can get help from classroom experts. Consider how an expert may be able to indicate a desire to work undisturbed for some time.

Social Media, Apps and your Tween

tree of multimedia

child watching screenTechnology has been a wonderful addition to our world, with many great benefits. Those benefits have come bundled with dangers. In this series, I’ve outlined the benefits and dangers of several social media apps. I would like to encourage children to be safe in their use of technology.

When we use technology at school, we focus on educational uses, and give a lot of guidance and support to children. When they are using technology independently, it’s generally for short periods, and in close proximity to an adult. We hope that this document will highlight possible issues, and help parents and families implement strategies and practices to keep children safe when using technology.

The Benefits of Technology Use

Technology has brought some wonderful features that we all appreciate. We can keep in touch with family through Skype and Whatsapp, find childhood friends and catch up with them on Facebook, curate resources and share them with each other on Pinterest, create videos and share them on YouTube, keep in touch with family and friends through email, share photos on Instagram, create weblogs in Tumblr, and the list goes on.

For the tools that I’ve mentioned, there are thousands more with similar or extended functionality. As humans, we love to share, and we love to connect, both of which we can now do in many ways online. We understand that mobile devices, and computer technology have revolutionized communication, creation, and curation. This makes critical thinking extremely important.

The Dangers of Technology Use

When using new technology (computers, tablets, smart devices, etc.), we have to be careful to keep ourselves and other people safe. It is difficult to figure out how to do that, as the settings and options differ from app to app. New technology is confusing to many of us; we are not natives in that landscape.

We understand that there are dangers, but we have trouble pinpointing the exact dangers, and knowing how to keep ourselves and others safe. It is difficult because terms of use and privacy policies are long and difficult to understand, and we don’t use many of the tools that children use. We inhabit different spaces, and even when we inhabit the same space, we use the tools in very different ways.

Some of the online tools that are most popular with our children are Musical.ly, Instagram, Whatsapp, Skype, YouTube, and Snapchat. All these tools have great features, but what about the dangers?

Dangers comes from inappropriate content, contact, or conduct online. Are you aware of the attractions of each tool that your child uses, its benefits, and its dangers?

This list is made up of the most popular tools with children (under 13) at my school. Explore each of the tools that you or your children are interested in, from the list below.

General Advice for Making Online Use Safer

There are a variety of choices available to families around technology use. It is important for every family to think through the issues, and decide on the appropriate standards and agreements to guide the use of technology. Every family’s agreement and practices will be different, because families have their own individual dynamics and values. Here are some suggestions to make the use of technology, particularly the Internet, safer for children. The first five tips are important for all families. For the other tips, select the ones that are relevant to and appropriate for your family.

  • Know that it is impossible to make social media 100% safe.
  • Explore available privacy settings for online accounts and turn them on as appropriate.
  • Be aware of what your child is using and doing online, and offer support and guidance to help them make responsible choices. This could provide great opportunities for exploring technology together, and for conversations.
  • Create a set of agreements and standards for your family around the use of technology, social media, and the Internet.
  • Regularly review your family’s agreement, and revise as appropriate to the development of the child and the family’s context.
  • Agree on some simple responses to inappropriate content online, as appropriate for the age of your child, for example, escape out and tell an adult.
  • Have rules/agreements about where your child can use their device.
  • If you decide to allow your child to use social media apps that require users to be at least 13 years old, create a family account that your child can use, and actively manage the account.
  • Agree with your child on what apps they are allowed to use, and a process for discussing/selecting new apps that they may use.
  • Require that your child have permission before installing any apps, even free ones.
  • Make sure that you learn about an app before you give permission for your child to install it.
  • Turn on Parental Controls in iOS or Google Play.
  • Listen to your child’s point of view, and discuss the reasons for your decisions.
  • Charge devices in public/common areas overnight.
  • Do not give a smart, portable device to a child who is not up to the responsibility. For example, if your child needs lots of help being a good self-manager in the physical world, they will be greatly challenged to make safe and responsible choices online.
  • It is important to agree on what settings your child is allowed to independently change in social media, and other communication apps.
  • Safety first. Emphasize this with your child and encourage them to share challenges they encounter with technology, how they solve them, and what they need help with. Be calm, and don’t overreact in these situations.

Read previous posts in this series