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.