While completing the Google Challenge, I personally did not have any issues coming up with the answers, but in an attempt to put myself in a student’s shoes, I imagined my 15 year old completing the challenge.
I am at an advantage over him because I have background information already that helps me with my search. For example, one of the questions asked how many inches a man has sailed if he has two swallow tattoos. I understand that swallows are birds and are a common flash tattoo that originated with sailors. I think Ian would have been thrown off the whole question immediately because he probably only knows “swallow” as a verb, which would push him to just copy and paste the question rather than thinking about it critically and using context clues to figure out what the question is asking.
To mimic his habits, I copied and pasted the question into my search bar to see what came up, and it was the correct answer in inches. If a student did this they would miss out on key information:
- A swallow is a bird.
- Tattoos originated with sailors and had universal meanings.
- A swallow represented distance traveled by the wearer of the tattoo.
- Distance among sailors is measured in nautical miles.
- A sailor with 2 swallows has traveled 10,000 nautical miles, which is no small feat. This sailor would have been a highly experienced and sought-after professional.
In other words, he could find the answer, but did he actually learn anything?
One thing I do have in common with teens in terms of how I search is that I often Google entire questions and skim for the answers within the snippets, without even clicking on any of the results or making a note of the source. The Information Behavior of the Researcher of the Future calls this “horizontal information seeking.” To avoid sharing unreliable information, I need to find my answers not by skimming, but by going to various sources of information, noting their reliability, reading entire articles for correct context, and cross-checking to ensure the information is correct.
3 thoughts on “Reflective Searching”
Sarah, I love this reflection and how you put yourself in your son’s shoes. I’m sure this illuminates how your students may experience it as well. I also was struck by the need for adequate background information. This is such a daunting task to supply as educators since everyone has a different framework and different experiences. I agree that the use of context clues would be helpful. It would also be interesting for our students to compare and contrast how context clues used in reading and on the internet are similar and/or different. I am excited to test drive this in our classrooms!
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I like how you described the thought process behind putting yourself in a 15-year-olds shoes. My first reaction would have been to also google the entire question, but just because it is my personality, I probably would have gotten lost in a rabbit hole of learning all about sailors and what their tattoos mean. I had known that swallows and tattoos were associated with sailors, but had no idea that it was to show how far they had sailed. You make a really great point about finding the answer vs. learning about a topic. I would relate depending on how much time I have on hand to go further into research.
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You made a great point on how information can be missed by simply copying and pasting the question in the search bar. While 31-year-old me had to do that when misreading one of my challenge questions took me down a rabbit hole, I still looked up background information afterwards. Younger students are not likely to do that.
One thing the younger generation seems to struggle with is being able to wait or take their time when completing tasks or activities. Everything is so instant, so it seems they think understanding learning concepts should be instant as well. When teaching 4th grade, I really pushed my students to click on the search results links. I needed them to understand that while Google helps lead us to information we inquire about, that it in itself is not a source. Teaching the evaluation skills in the classroom will help the students and myself search with credibility in mind. Great reflection!
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