Remember Lycos and Webcrawler? Or what about AltaVista?
Wow. We sure have come a long way in search!
And since search engines (namely the goog) is where we start just about all endeavors on the interwebs these days, it is important that we stop and think about the tools we are using and how they can effect our productivity and even teaching.
The Library -> Directory -> Search Evolution
Those certainly were the days. Looking up something by keyword in the library’s card catalog and hoping the book you want isn’t already being read by someone else. We really were limited in our quests for new knowledge to what was carefully curated by tireless librarians – and we hoped that nothing was too out of date.
Then, in the mid 90’s, several different digital curations started taking place. Online directories of links that were hand made were browsable by sometimes thousands of topics.
You can still visit the Yahoo! Directory, one of the oldest and which was a gold mine for anyone landing (or paying for) a link back in the day. These were great because in the most trusted directories, you could be assured that the site was legit, spam free, and relevant to the topic you were looking for.
But with millions and probably billions of new pages of content being created each and every day, the directory system just couldn’t keep up. With the birth of the search engine, and site crawling ‘bots’, we can find any and all relevant content with whatever search term we want.
But there are major problems with search engines!
- We typically only ever make it to the top few listed sites in search results – how much more content are we missing out on?
- There are tons of less than ethical websites out there that use lots of techniques to artificially inflate their search engine rankings.
- Certainly when working with students, most search engines can serve up results that definitely aren’t family appropriate.
- Plus, do you trust everything you find on Google?
The Walled Search
Something that is likely to increase is the use of “walled search” environments. This lets you filter out search results based on certain types (ie. videos, images, etc.) and can also limit search to only a pre-determined set of sites.
Besides the built in filters in Google and Bing, you might find these education specific tools useful:
SweetSearch.com – A safe search engine for students
AppleEngine.com – A search engine for teachers to find free resources
WatchKnow.org – An organized (and searchable) directory of hand-picked educational videos
Know any others? Please leave them in a comment below!
The Social Search Experience
Like it or not, Google’s new +1 feature and your twitter friends’ links showing up in search results point to the fact that the powers that be think we want our search to be a social experience. For the record, Bing is doing the same thing with your facebook friends.
The idea is that if someone we “know” discusses a link, it will show higher in our future search queries.
To be honest, this is a little scary. We’ve always known that Google, Facebook, Amazon, and the others track our every move, but now sharing that with others takes it a bit further.
How many educators have parents or students that follow them on twitter or friend them on facebook? Are you cool with years down the road some link you shared being brought to the attention of a former student or family member? Kind of creepy me thinks.
However, the benefits of social networking between parents, students, and educators is a powerful reality. This will be an important topic to watch as new search features evolve.
So What’s Next?
First, as a personal rant, just yesterday the usually respectable Mashable published a chart that predicts that Bing will in fact become more popular than Google by 2012! Being a former math teacher, it didn’t take long to realize that the extrapolation methods used by Mashable aren’t exactly statistically sound. It is probably more to do with the fact that Bing powers Mashable search and is a sponsor, but I digress…
Though, it is true that Google’s current search empire isn’t susceptible to being overthrown. I predict that we will increasingly rely on more of the “walled search” tools discussed above.
What do you think?
How will students be searching the web five, ten, or twenty years from now?
Does that effect the way we teach students to do research or attack a problem?
Do you teach search strategies or do students already “get it”?