Monday, February 13, 2012

Search Engines: Process of Finding & Learning

"The difficulty is that the searcher does not always know precisely what she means; if she did, she would have little need of searching. The word 'search' suggests that a person is interested in finding something that has been lost. People do use search engines for this, particularly to 're-find' information often they are hoping not to 'find' but to 'learn,' or to 'discover.' Perhaps, then, the ideal search engine does not just understand what you desire, but knows what the user wants even when she does not know herself." (Halavais 35)

I never really took the time to ponder what search engines do to our world, to the education system, to my every day life. I can't even tell you how many times I've used a search engine. I can guarantee that, today alone, I have "Googled" a word or phrase AT LEAST a few dozen or so different times. Honestly, I do not know what life was like before search engines, specifically Google...because I am a Google-junkie.

As I was reflecting on this particular passage from the chapter, I immediately thought of one of the teachers I work with who teaches world history. This particular teacher has decided to implement a research project, as a way to introduce the beginnings of research writing. The students' task: search a topic and write about the findings.

The students think the project is monotonousness. However, what they have found is that by merely searching what they think is a common topic, they end up learning something they didn't know. As I have had the opportunity to watch them search and see the light bulb go on (since I work a few hours a week as a media specialist), I have been able to connect what Halavais means about the finding-learning/discovering connection.

Students do not realize that "the ideal search engine does not just understand what [they] desire, but knows what [they want] even when [they do] not know [themselves]" (Halavais 35). Since students do not always realize this truth, I believe that a part of the role as a teacher is to show students all the advantages of search engines. Many times, teachers assume students know everything about technology, but I have found that students only know what they use everyday (such as Facebook, Twitter, etc.) or really just what they WANT to know. Teachers need to take the time to educate students on all the possibilities technology has. You never know, something might peak their interest. Although, isn't that the goal of teaching--to help the students find connections to their lives and interests?

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