Search Engine Education and Testing

Last week I had the pleasure of spending some time in Maine with elderblogger Ronni Bennet. We talked (amidst solving the all worlds other problems) about the importance today of teaching students the art of  good search queries, and the importance of recognizing trustworthy information.

She suggested a good idea: A test where students are required to find 3 articles about a topic: One that is well-written and authoritative, one that is poorly written and/or not authoritative, and one that would take more time to decide if it is authoritative or not. The student would document what search terms they used and why they chose them, and what aspects of the articles established trustworthiness.

CalculatorA further thought was how search engines may be in the same place that desktop calculators were 30 years ago. Some people wondered if the easy answers given my these new machines would mean the end of math education. How can you learn when the answers come too easy? Of course, now we know that calculators are just a tool which, when you know how to use one, makes you a better mathematician. Today people worry about plagiarism and the ease with which you can find information about anything online. But in the future, surely we will see search engines as indispensable tools for writing and research? Teaching the skills of how to use one (including how to evaluate what you find) will be regarded as an essential part of education.

I’ve searched for anyone proposing a similar idea to Ronni’s, but haven’t found anything. Maybe I could use a refresher course myself!