Monday, October 4, 2010

What Do Your Students Know About Google?

Jen Brinson: Google Apps ~ More & Even More
Did you know that last month the United States government conducted 4200 Google searches? Do you wonder what they did before Google? On that note, Jennifer Brinson, STAR DEN Leadership Council Events Member and Salisbury High School's Instructional Coach, spent the day teaching my 10th and 11th grade students what they did not know about Google, and it was fascinating to see their reactions. Working from the assumption of academic use, Brinson took students through drill down, more, even more, and advanced features of Google. However, Brinson also touched on important personal use applications for connecting visual, digital, and informational literacies with tools for reading the world, researching, and learning. Let me tell you, 42 minutes never flew faster with more student engagement and inquiry. The presentation was so good, the bell rang and the students were disappointed, then scrambled to return laptops to carts. Here's what we learned.

Lower left lets you change/remove background.
Brinson began by asking students to go to google.com. The first thing we noticed was her background image; the first thing we all did was to change our background image. How many times did I look at the search engine, never noticing that I had an option to fill the white space. In a minute or under, we altered our research background. You can do that quickly by selecting one of Google's pre-loaded images, or you can upload your own. I opted for my own, and within a minute I had a picture of my new cria at 2 days old.

Google thinking for you...
We all know you can search Google for anything--personal information, academics, games, applications--anything. Google's newest feature: ANTICIPATION. Now you do not even have to think; Google will do it for you. It reads your mind with each keystroke, and often it will do a better drill down search for you than you yourself can. Remember when you had to open dictionary.com to define a word, or open a dashboard widget on your MAC.  No longer. In Google search, type in DEFINITION + the word you want defined, and the first result is your definition.

I'm not sure the next feature will work for higher math or more complicated problems, but at a simple level, Google is your CALCULATOR. Type an equation in your search bar and presto--like magic you see an answer forming as you type. Students were really liking this feature.

WMD + Atomic Clock + Google = making life easier
TRAVEL, anyone? Our DEN GURU's spend more time in the air than on the ground, so as they wander outside their time zone, they can ask Google "What time is it"? Google is so smart that if your computer or Dr. Larry Rosen's iGeneration's WMD is aligned to the atomic clock, you get the time.

Great travel aid!
I love to travel, but I hate CONVERTING UNITS OF MONEY. Laptop or WMD, you can find the exchange conversion faster than texting. You can work the conversion either way, from let's say Euros to US dollars or vice versa. Either way, instant answer. You will even get a graph showing the range of exchange over the last few years, letting you know just how strong or weak the American dollar is.

Whatever happened to a pinch of this, a dash of that...
What if you're COOKING and you only have a teaspoon to measure small amounts of ingredients. How many teaspoons comprise a tablespoon. Or a cup of dry ingredients. You get the idea. For a quick conversion, ask Google.

So many drill down search options.
Looking for a PERSON? I googled Steve Dembo, because when it comes to digital footprints, Teach 42 is ubiquitous. In a Google search, the default is everything, but on the left side you have options to narrow your search, from images to videos (Steve has his own broadcast channel, so this option mines a rich vein), to maps (yes, Steve is on the map), and, well, you get the idea. Remember, if you choose videos, your default will always be YouTube (blocked in most schools) because Google owns it.

Great options
Google also lets you manipulate your search in some interesting ways. If you are conducting STEM cell research, and you really want some definition to the search, simply click "more options" on the left, and you have a world of research at your fingertips. For visual and spacial learners, the Wonder Wheel and the Timeline are great presentation graphics. For visual learners, these two options are frequently not explored, so check them out next time you are doing research.
 I have only scratched the surface of Brinson's 42 minutes, so you will have to stay tuned for the next installment of What Do Your Students Know About Google--coming soon.


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