Google has recently launched a new Search Education site which aims to help teachers and students hone search skills. The site includes a number of lesson plans (aligned to the U.S. Common Core Standards) and could form the basis of an interesting discussion with students about search and search literacy.
The lesson plans often refer back to the A Google a Day site or feature activities based on an introductory video like the one below. This video is worth a look. Not only does it give a nice overview of how Google indexes pages, but it would also be worth examining with students the claims made at the two minute mark that Google “don’t ever accept payment to add a site to our index, update it more often or improve its ranking.” You might have students consider the validity of this claim and show students how to distinguish between paid advertisements and unpaid results. Comparing Google results to other commercial or academic search engines would also be a worthwhile exploration of how search engines work.
While some educators bemoan the increasing reliance on Google by students, any resources that help to demystify search and help students search more effectively are useful additions to the classroom. Like any resource it is important to speak with students about the credibility of the Search Education site. Have a discussion about the reasons it has been created and the intentions of Google. This will not only help students become better searchers but also help them be more critical about evaluating the reliability or bias of websites they visit.