Learning how to search.

So, recently I found out a friend had received a medical diagnosis.  While I had heard about the diagnosis before, much of the facts regarding the disease were a mystery to me.  Like any child of the 21st century, I consulted Dr Google.  Yep, many times over I’ve entered symptoms into google, read the relevant posts and either been terrified or laughed at the ridiculousness (pretty much any symptom could be cancer!).  After spending some time trying to get to the facts from authoritative sources, it got me thinking about the importance of learning to use search engines effectively.  I’m going to use an example to illustrate my “top tips for using search engines”.  The example is my daughter asking me “What is fog?”.  I want her to find the information for herself, so here’s what I would do.

  1. Go to your search engine and type in the question you want answered.  In this case, I’ve used google, and searched the words “what is fog?”.  The top result is a google document with the definition/s for fog.  (see below)Image

While this is an interesting and concise result, I’m wanting to help my daughter find out a bit more about what causes fog, and probably in a more child friendly language.

So, I scrolled down a little further to find the results from other websites:


Wikipedia (the first result) is a great way to help direct searches, and I’ll talk about that later, but for the purposes of this search, I really want something with child language.  So, I’ve noticed there’s a site called “discovery kids” and that looks interesting and potentially the way to go for my search.  This brings me to my second tip:

2.  Look for key words that will answer your question the way you want it answered.  These keywords can be found in the bold blue font (this is the Web page TITLE), or the green font (the web address) or in the black text underneath (this is the notes that the web site author wants to appear in search engines).  With he “discovery kids” page, I found my key word in the blue font (the title of the page).  But the text in the green font brings me to my next point.

3.  Look for site addresses with authority- what I mean is that often a page published by a government branch or large company will provide the most up to date and valid information.  This isn’t always the case, but often.  The site “discovery kids” makes me think it’s probably written by the producers of the discovery channel – a well known pay TV channel which produces documentaries.  They’re pretty factual, so again, I’m thinking this site is the way to go.  So, once I’ve decided to go with the site, it’s time to click through and check it out.  Let’s see what the site looks like:


I was a little disappointed, so I went back to my google search and when I scrolled down further, found another site by National Geographic Education (this title was in the blue bold font).  Image


Their resource was much more effective, and here’s why: it had links throughout the text – these brought up the definitions of words when clicked on; it had videos and pictures to see what fog looks like; it also had links to further information (fog catchers? etc).  These are valuable additions to a research site for children, so the National Geographic site gets my tick!  I’ll be adding it to my Diigo links list for future reference now!!

Finally, I want to make a few last suggestions for searches.  Once you’ve typed something in the search engine and your results have appeared, what you find may not be what you’re looking for, but it may help inform your further searches.  For example, if I scrolled down the page further, Google brought up a page by “ask.com” that shows the question “what is fog and how is it formed?”.  It made me realise that this may be a more effective search to type in.  Think about altering your searches and don’t be afraid to scroll down, go to pages 2,3 and dare I say 4 of your search results.  You may be surprised.  Validity may come in various shapes and sizes: medical issues are a tough one because it’s hard to get a balanced view (if you’re searching for information on a diagnosis as I was), however I found the charity sites were helpful in helping me refine my google search a little better.

I hope you can find ways to teach children effective ways to search, but also to evaluate the validity and authority of any site they visit.  This is an important skill!



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