21st Century Superpowers – Search, Find, Evaluate

Context

There are few skills more important to students in today’s world than the ability to search for, to find and to critically evaluate information. These skills are a key focus of my role in assisting teachers and students at Castlemaine Primary School.

In 1851 the discovery of the world’s richest shallow alluvial goldfield in Castlemaine sparked a gold rush that transformed Australia. It’s something all Australian students learn about, but there are none for whom the story is more relevant than the students of Castlemaine Primary School. That’s why I chose ‘Castlemaine gold rush’ as the search term to illustrate the 21st century superpowers made possible by new search technology.

Google vs Bing vs DuckDuckGo

Our quest to search for, find and evaluate information about the ‘Castlemaine gold rush’ depends on Internet search engines. Three of the best are Google, Bing and DuckDuckGo. How do their results compare for the search query ‘Castlemaine gold rush’?

The number of highly relevant links in the first ten results returned by the three search engines was ten for Google, nine for Bing and eight for DuckDuckGo. DuckDuckGo provided two links to less credentialed websites than Bing or Google, though the information was still relevant. Bing also linked to a less relevant page of the Friends of Mount Alexander Diggings site than Google. Based on the first ten results Google performed best, though its edge over Bing was less substantial than its edge over DuckDuckGo.

All three engines allow advanced syntax making complex searching possible, nonetheless, Google provides more depth and variety of searches via menu selection on its results page. For the search query ‘Castlemaine gold rush’, Google demonstrated a clear edge.

How do we know search results are trustworthy?

The site that appeared as the fourth result for the query ‘Castlemaine gold rush’ with both Google and Bing was the Friends of Mount Alexander Diggings website at fomad.org.au. To check the trustworthiness of this site I used Kathy Schrock’s 5ws of website evaluation – who, what, when, where, why – since these criteria are specifically intended for student use.

By asking these questions of fomad.org.au students can judge with greater confidence whether they have found a reliable source of information.

WHO? One of the site’s main contributors, David Bannear, is a credentialed archeologist. A search for his name brings up three pages of Google Scholar results and three pages of Google Books results. A search for ‘fomad.org.au’ brings up ten pages of Google search results.

WHAT? The site states FOMAD’s purpose is “to protect, preserve, and promote the cultural heritage sites and artefacts which make up the Mount Alexander Diggings.”

WHEN? FOMAD was formed in 1999 and the site contains news updates from late 2012.

WHERE? The organisation’s address is a Castlemaine PO box. Castlemaine is the administrative centre of Mount Alexander Shire, the site of the site of Australia’s first large scale gold rush.

WHY? The website provides detailed information about the impact of the discovery of gold on the region during the 1850s. It also provides a list of FOMAD publications and links to relevant third party websites and publications containing information about the history of Castlemaine and the gold rush.

Whilst there are no guarantees that the site is free of bias or errors, based on Kathy Schrock’s 5ws, students should have a high degree of confidence that they have found a reliable source of information for their studies on the Castlemaine gold rush.

Conclusion

When I began teaching I could not have found this much relevant information without visiting a large library in Victoria. Today, students on the other side of the world can find detailed information on the topic in a fraction of a second. Evaluating that content takes longer, but search technology makes the task vastly simpler and quicker than ever before.

Many of my students take this for granted. I’m old enough to find it totally amazing!

Forest Creek (Castlemaine Victoria), 1852

 

 

Connectivism in action – demonstrated by a five year old

Connectivism in action – demonstrated by a five year old
Yesterday my five year old daughter did something that started me thinking about Connectivism, a theory of learning based on the premise that knowledge exists in the world rather than in the head of an individual.  It’s a theory that takes into account the effect technology has had on how people live, communicate, and learn.
My daughter wanted to buy our dog Sooty a dog bed like her friend’s dog Tiki.  I said that first I’d need to see whether the bed offered value for money.
“Do you know where to buy it?” I asked.
“Yes. It’s at Pet Stock,” she said.
“Ok,” I said. “We can ask them the price when we go to town tomorrow.”
“I can check it now,” she said. “There’s a Pet Stock website.”
She quickly googled “pet stock”, found the website, found the item and found the price.
I was struck by the fact that her immediate inclination was to search for the answer online, whereas mine was to wait until I could walk into a store and ask someone a question. Along the way she also learned that ‘canine’ refers to dogs, ‘feline’ to cats and ‘equine’ to horses (See website image below).  Her learning happened without talking or communicating with another person.  The answer to her question – along with other interesting information – was retrieved through a simple Google search followed by the successful navigation of a website.
Her behaviour reminded me of the suggestion made by Will Richardson of PLPConnectU that 21st century schools need to concentrate on teaching students know-how of the know-where kind rather than the know-what kind.  There’s simply too much knowledge in the world to cram into our heads, but if we know where to access it, we can find it when we need it.
The development of writing, Gutenberg’s printing press, and now computer technologies have brought about major knowledge revolutions in human history.  Today, the greatest repositories of knowledge are digital, and many of these repositories are accessible to anyone with an Internet connection.
Unfortunately, at $79.95, we decided the dog bed was a bit expensive, so Sooty is still sleeping on his old cushion.

Yesterday my five year old daughter did something that started me thinking about Connectivism, a theory of learning based on the premise that knowledge exists in the world rather than in the head of an individual.  It’s a theory that takes into account the effect technology has had on how people live, communicate, and learn.

My daughter wanted to buy our dog Sooty a dog bed like her friend’s dog Tiki.  I said that first I’d need to see whether the bed offered value for money.

“Do you know where to buy it?” I asked.

“Yes. It’s at Pet Stock,” she said.

“Ok,” I said. “We can ask them the price when we go to town tomorrow.”

“I can check it now,” she said. “There’s a Pet Stock website.”

She quickly googled “pet stock”, found the website, found the item and found the price.

I was struck by the fact that her immediate inclination was to search for the answer online, whereas mine was to wait until I could walk into a store and ask someone a question. Along the way she also learned that ‘canine’ refers to dogs, ‘feline’ to cats and ‘equine’ to horses (See website image below).  Her learning happened without talking or communicating with another person.  The answer to her question – along with other interesting information – was retrieved through a simple Google search followed by the successful navigation of a website.

PetSTock

Her behaviour reminded me of the suggestion made by Will Richardson of PLPnetwork that 21st century schools need to concentrate on teaching students know-how of the know-where kind rather than the know-what kind.  There’s simply too much knowledge in the world to cram into our heads, but if we know where to access it, we can find it when we need it.

The development of writing, Gutenberg’s printing press, and now computer technologies have brought about major knowledge revolutions in human history.  Today, the greatest repositories of knowledge are digital, and many of these repositories are accessible to anyone with an Internet connection.

Unfortunately, at $79.95, we decided the dog bed was a bit expensive, so Sooty is still sleeping on his old cushion.