I have just finished reading Chapter 2 in Herring’s (2011) “Improving Students’ Web Use and Information Literacy” on the topic of finding and using information on the web. The chapter focuses on ways to improve searches on the web and create more effective web searchers in teachers and students alike.
This got me thinking about what type of web searcher I am and whether I am using search engines such as Google to their full effect. I will admit for my everyday searches for simple things such as the phone number of my favourite Indian restaurant, I use only the simple search function, instead of the advanced feature. I do, however, think I know how to make my search effective by adding the name of my town, the name of the restaurant and the descriptor “Indian restaurant”. This makes me think that my general searches are pretty accurate and will most likely lead me to the information I need in only one search.
There are other times, however, when I seem to forget how to be an effective searcher and type in search input that is too broad and blindly hope to get a hit on something good. For example, my initial searches on the new idea of “Global English” was at first patchy at best, until I had clicked on many of the pages that showed up and quickly learnt what to dismiss and what had a pattern in the information and researches names that appeared often.
Once I had this initial information, I then turned pro-searcher. I added quotation marks to the term “Global English” to ensure I got page returns with the two words together and not merely the two words arbitrarily showing up on one website. I also added the names of notable researchers in the field and synonyms for the topic such as “International English” and “English as a Lingua Franca” to narrow my search results.
I will admit though that not once did I use Google’s Advanced search feature, nor did I branch out to other Metasearch Engines such as Dogpile.com to try to expand my possible hits. So what does that tell me about the type of searcher I am? I think it tells me that I’m on my way to being an effective searcher but I’m not quite there yet. I feel I have good instincts as to what search input will lead to a more successful search, but I’m not yet setting the perfect example for my students or fellow teachers.
As an aside to that note, have I ever passed what I know about web searching on to a student searching the web in class? I don’t think I have. I think I have taken for granted that students will “figure out what works best on their own”. But after reading this chapter I’m beginning to think that a lesson with students on how to be effective web searchers is just as important as a lesson on how to hold a pencil correctly.
Herring, J. (2011). Improving students’ web use and information literacy: A guide for teachers and teacher librarians (pp. 15-33). London: Facet Publishing.