How are you going today? It’s freezing here in Melbourne. We had sunshine this morning and now there’s hail banging on the roof. Four Seasons in One Day. Crazy weather.
Today we are talking about Google. Mainly because we use it all the time and our kids do too. But the problem is that they often spend a LOT of time messing about and falling down virtual rabbit holes – hours are lost to these distractions and diversions and often ultimately end up without what they were looking for….
When was the last time you looked up something on Google?
I bet it wasn’t long ago. Maybe yesterday, today or even just an hour ago. Google isn’t the only Internet search engine of course. But I’ll also bet it’s a long time since you used something like Alta Vista…Am I right?
Google’s even a verb now. And our kids learn quickly that Google has the ‘answers’. (What we consider answers and they do varies of course!).
In the classroom I have kids telling me they “found it on Google” all the time. Of course, they didn’t find the information on Google – they only found the list of possible sources. Google isn’t a source of information – it is ‘simply’** curating the Web for you.
So there are a few things I think about when I use Google with kids.
- Firstly, get them to be specific. I say this a lot. They need to think about what they want to find before they can find it – not rocket science I know!! So, don’t type in cars. Type in blue cars near the beach to find the image you want or the content you’re seeking. The more specific you are, the better the search results will be. And the less time you or your child will spend searching and the more time they can spend using the info they find for their learning.
- Ask the right questions. When you child is working on homework or looking up how to play/fix their favourite game, ask it as a question. This often brings up Forums in the search results, where you often can find other people with similar issues!
- Is it Googleable? So when your children come up with questions to ask Google, it’s likely that they’ll ask something fairly obscure. They need to understand that some things are Googleable and some just aren’t. Why did Australian first settlers live in Sydney? is quite a tricky one to find an answer to on Google. First settlers in Sydney will get more info and closer to an answer. Google can’t form opinions for them (at least it shouldn’t!!) – they have to find the info they need to inform their own point of view.
- Think about key words and phrases. Google doesn’t keep words in the order you type them. So if you search for Chicken Recipe with Lemons, you get every page that has those words – lemonade recipe with chicken kebabs for example, or lemon squash drinking bottles for feeding chickens. This is important to understand.
- Which brings me to – Use Inverted commas to get Google to search for entire phrases. So “Chicken recipe with Lemons” will only bring up those exact words. So lemon chicken recipes WON’T appear. Give it a go. Makes searching much quicker if you know exactly what you are after.
These quick tips are useful for you but they are invaluable for your kids. The Internet is a big place. They need strategies to navigate it quickly and easily!
Can you share this with someone today? Who could use this info to get them to what they are looking for asap?
Let me know what you do when searching online? Any other tips?
** Nothing about Google’s algorithm is simple. (Algorithm = how they decide what to show you when you put a word or two in the search box.) There are some ways to play the system a little – by using Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) – but ultimately it’s a very complex, and well guarded secret formula that many guess at but no one really knows.