Using websites in the classroom is one of the easiest and less stressful ways of integrating technology into teaching. There is a large and constantly expanding collection of resources and learning materials online. The web with its growing repository of information and knowledge has certainly turned into a window on the wider world outside your class, and is of course, a readily available set of authentic material.
Acessing the content of web sites and using it with students in the classroom is not a task with no risks. There are a set of measures and steps to be taken before one can ensure the usability and appropriateness of what to include within a course book.
Several educators underrate the ability to efficiently and quickly search through Internet content and find suitable resources thinking that it is a simple task that any internet user can use with such an ease that no prior search knowledge is needed. This is completely wrong and , as a matter of fact, this is one of the most useful skills that both teachers and learners need to urgently acquire.
There are three basic ways of searching on the net, and I will briefly describe them below hoping that by the end of this post you will have grasped some techniques to effectively and quickly search the web and find content to use in the classroom.
Search Engines :
Although there is a variety of search engines, Google is , undisputedly, one of the most well known of them all with billions of indexed web pages in its online database. As you might probably know, a search engine is analogous to a telephone directory , or any other kind of database of stored information. You search for a name or title and the directory gives you back more information about that entry. But with billions of pages to choose from the task gets even much harder to easily and quickly find what you are looking for. So how do you find exactly what you want ?
To answer this question you need to first know what the process of indexing a web page means. When someone first publishes a content into the web , search engines such as google sends out their robots to explore and crawl the content and categorize it. When Google recognizes the existence of such a content it then stores it into its database for a later use, Google uses a very complicated algorithm to carry out all the above mentioned operations and I will not talk about them here because that is not our issue. What Google specifically know about a web page when it indexes it is its address on the web, its title, when it was last updated and a few keywords associated with the content itself. These keywords are usually provided by the designer of the website and are generally meant to describe what the page talks about. The key to a good and smart searching in Google is the ability to define your keywords accurately.
Among the techniques you can use to refine your search query is the " phrase search technique " which invloves wrapping part of a phrase in inserted commas which will let Google treat those words not as individual entities but will instead look for sentences on the web page which contain those words in that particualr order. Thus, instead of searching for Cheap Flights to Canada , which can search for any or all of these words in any position and order,on a page, try searching for " Cheap Flights to Canada" as part of a phrase you might expect to find on a web page. This technique is particularly useful when looking for lyrics or specific chunks of a text. The ultimate trick with Google is to try to imagine the web pages you are looking for and then try to visualize the content of these pages which will help you decide on what key words to use in your search.
To learn more about some other useful tips to effectively search Google, I invite you to read:
Google Search Tutorials Part 1
Use Google to Search and Find Images Easily
Educational Image Search Engine Part1
Educational Image Search Engine Part2
2- Subject Guides:
Not all search engines are keyboard based . Some do not use this algorithm at all. In fact , it is thanks to Google for the introduction of this highly useful technique into web search. With this invention, internet search technology has been largely revolutionized to the instant that we now talk about instant search, voice search, image search , people search and many more. However as I said earlier not all engines use key word techniques.
If we look at Yahoo , which existed way before Google, this search engine uses subject guides and divides its content into subject areas and subdivisions of those areas. So instead of a keyword search from the main page, users browse the section that best reflects their interests and their search. For instance, you want to search for the biography of a certain singer, you have to access the Yahoo directory then click on Entertainment, then Music, then Artists.and finally search for the biographical information you want. This process means that Yahoo will only search in " Entertainment, Music, Artists rather than in its entire directory.
3- Real Language Search
A real language search such as Ask (www.ask.com) allows users to type simple questions as search queries . This does not mean that Ask will try to analyse and understand the question but rather selects the keywords from the query and construct a search based on them. The final result page a user would get will definitely contain the answer to his/her question at the top ( of course if Ask has been able to find a direct answer ) and links of related websites below that. For instance, if you want to look for a biographical information about someone you better phrase your search query as such: When was xx born ?
As educators, It is really worth taking the time to explore all the three sites and spend some time simplifying them to your learners. Learners can really benefit from an exposure to all three types as they activate different linguistic and mental processes. Keywords are good for exploring word relationships and lexical areas. Subject searches help define and refine ideas and contexts. Real search can provide useful practice in question formation.
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