A good bell-ringer to help students improve their search skills is www.agoogleaday.com. Students have to find the answer to a daily question, and they earn points depending on how fast they submit the correct answer.
Jeff Utecht suggests that these questions are good for teachers, too. They show teachers how to reframe a question so that it requires multiple levels of knowledge. Here’s an example from Google a Day:
What is the binomial name of the animal for which the FVGP provides sanctuary and rehabilitation?
A search of FVGP reveals that it it the Fernan-Vaz Gorilla Project, a sanctuary for the Western lowland gorillas that are hunted for bush meat. A second search for the binomial name of the lowland gorilla is Gorilla gorilla gorilla. Submitting the correct answer in timely fashion earns you 300 points.
Your essential question for class projects needs to be “Google proof,” Utecht says. “Ask questions that Google can’t answer.”
This got me thinking about how I could engage my journalism students to discover the perimeters of media law. Instead of lecturing or having them read from a six-year old textbook which doesn’t have last week’s “I (heart) Boobies!” ruling, I could give them a scenario that would require them to determine a legal defense. It would take more time, but students would be learning the skill of search in a real-life situation, not the skill of note taking. Yes, I could play the role of the judge hearing their arguments in the courtroom. Sounds fun.