Google-Assisted “Search” Learning…but pls don't say "according to Google"

September 4, 2008

What do you do when you’re connected and need a quick answer to a question? You probably just “google it” and then click the Wikipedia entry for whatever you’re “googling.”  I think this is certainly true of many Generation Y workers and those born after them. Many did not grow up using print encyclopedias and dictionaries like many older (some Gen X, boomer, mature) workers. Generally, search was limited to the physical materials at hand or physical proximity to someone with the answer. In my case usually my Dad. Now that has changed across generations.

I’m actually sick of Google. Although it is a huge part of my personal learning and work environment I’m just well, blah. I think this general blah came from a few too many “according to Google…” sightings. Don’t you just want to say, “Google is not a person.” According to the Google search I just did…might be better. Splitting hairs.

So then I ran across a decent article that I read through and thought I should buck up and revisit the things that make Google such a large part of my life.

In the simplest form, Google is simply a search engine. While some would argue that a Google search is not ‘real learning,’ search (and other) tools from Google appear to have pedagogical uses.

How you harness the potential of this ‘quick ‘n dirty,’ ubiquitous search platform depends, of course, on how you use it and what tools you use beyond its basic search capability. The ubiquity of the platform is what makes it worthy of consideration for supporting workplace learning.

George Chinnery (2008) described some of the pedagogical uses of Google in his article, “You’ve got some GALL: Google-Assisted Language Learning.” Here is a recap of Chinnery’s article as it appearing in Language, Learning & Technology.

Google as an Informative Tool:

  • using a dictionary command (“define: strategy”), learners can discover meaning (definition, usage, correct spelling,).
  • Using Google Suggest, learners can get real time alternate suggestions (“did you mean ___?”) for their search term.
  • Using Google Books will give learners returns of rich prose.
  • Google Trends will return geographic information.
  • Synonyms (~term), vocabulary development (Google Image Labeler), and listing and brainstorming (Google Sets) are other tools.
  • For language learning, Google has Language Tools.
  • Instructors wishing to control search activities for learning can use Google Coop to create a search engine for a website or collection of sites.

Google as a Productive Tool:

  • Google’s Blogger provides learners a place to author their own textual, audiovisual content.
  • Google Docs give learners a way to collaborate on online documents.
  • Google knol is a collaborative wiki-like application for group collaboration.

Google as a Collaborative Tool:

  • Google Groups can be used to facilitate asynchronous class discussions.
  • Google Calendar can be used for scheduling and notification.
  • Google Lively is a 3-D environment where learners can create their own avatar and make and join rooms to meet and discuss topics.

Google as a Communicative Tool:

  • Gmail, (Google’s email program) together with Google Talk (instant messenger and internet telephony service) allow learners to email, save, print and email text chats and can be used to display presence of a learner. Preferences allow you to change your availability and give others an idea of your current status (online, offline, away, do not disturb, etc.). Some initial research on the benefits of chat indicate that chats in language classes “seem to help all individuals engage more frequently, with greater confidence, and with greater enthusiasm” than is characteristic for similar students in a classroom.

Google as an Aggregative Tool:

  • Google offers tools that recognize linguistic, visual, audio, gestural and spacial literacies in aggregate
  • On iGoogle, learners can create their own start-age; their own customized, personal learning environment.
  • Google Reader is a Web feed aggregator that allows learners and instructors to collect updates content (blogs, news feeds, podcasts, vodcasts, multimedia, etc.)
  • Google Gears allows learners to view content from Google Reader offline.
  • Google Page Creator is a simple webpage creation tool.
  • Google Maps allows you to make custom maps and Google Earth provides a satellite view of an address.
  • YouTube Remixer allows learners to make video mashups.
  • Google Docs is a presentation tool similar to Microsoft PowerPoint.

How Googlized are you?

  • http://karynromeis.blogspot.com/ Karyn Romeis

    This reminds me of the sort of thing I used to encounter quite often when I worked as an IT apps trainer. Variations on this scenario used to play out quite often.

    User: I’ve lost a file. Can you help me find it?
    Karyn: Okay. Tell me what happened.
    U: Well Joe Bloggs sent me this Excel spreadsheet, and I spent ages workig on it and now it’s just gone.
    K: Did you save it?
    U: Of course I did! I’m not THAT thick!
    K: Where did you save it?
    U: In Excel.
    K: Erm… Excel isn’t a place. Let me guess. You opened the attachment from the email. Worked on it for ages, and then hit Save, right?
    U: Exactly. And now I can’t find it.
    K: Remember when we did the basic Excel workshop and we talked about saving. Remember computers are very stupid things. They can only do what you tell them – even when that’s not what you meant to tell them. So it was Step 1, tell the computer where to save the file. Step 2, tell the computer what you want to call the file. Step 3, hit Save. You forgot steps 1 and 2, didn’t you?
    U: Well I wanted to save it in Excel and I was already in Excel. I wanted to call it by the same name it already had. So I just hit Save. BUT NOW IT’S GONE!!!!
    K: (sighs) Okay. Go and get yourself a cup of tea while I remote control your computer for a bit. When you get back, the file will be open on your screen and I will have saved a copy for you. Where do you want me to save it to, so that you can find it next time?
    U: Just save it in Excel.

    Karyn Romeiss last blog post..I hadn’t planned to, but…

  • http://karynromeis.blogspot.com Karyn Romeis

    This reminds me of the sort of thing I used to encounter quite often when I worked as an IT apps trainer. Variations on this scenario used to play out quite often.

    User: I’ve lost a file. Can you help me find it?
    Karyn: Okay. Tell me what happened.
    U: Well Joe Bloggs sent me this Excel spreadsheet, and I spent ages workig on it and now it’s just gone.
    K: Did you save it?
    U: Of course I did! I’m not THAT thick!
    K: Where did you save it?
    U: In Excel.
    K: Erm… Excel isn’t a place. Let me guess. You opened the attachment from the email. Worked on it for ages, and then hit Save, right?
    U: Exactly. And now I can’t find it.
    K: Remember when we did the basic Excel workshop and we talked about saving. Remember computers are very stupid things. They can only do what you tell them – even when that’s not what you meant to tell them. So it was Step 1, tell the computer where to save the file. Step 2, tell the computer what you want to call the file. Step 3, hit Save. You forgot steps 1 and 2, didn’t you?
    U: Well I wanted to save it in Excel and I was already in Excel. I wanted to call it by the same name it already had. So I just hit Save. BUT NOW IT’S GONE!!!!
    K: (sighs) Okay. Go and get yourself a cup of tea while I remote control your computer for a bit. When you get back, the file will be open on your screen and I will have saved a copy for you. Where do you want me to save it to, so that you can find it next time?
    U: Just save it in Excel.

    Karyn Romeiss last blog post..I hadn’t planned to, but…

  • http://www.brandon-hall.com Janet Clarey

    Thanks for the memories…

    Reminds me of how we forget the little stuff like “htt what?” when entering a url. (that you don’t even need to enter)…now explaining why computers are smart.

  • http://www.artichoke.typepad.com/ Artichoke

    Thanks for the link to Chinnery’s paper Janet … I have just finished coding the framework against student learning outcomes in SOLO Taxonomy and have something that will be great to use with our ICTPD Cluster teachers in New Zealand when we talk about Google apps.

    Artichokes last blog post..If only Jane Gilbert had a blog …. and NZCER had a wiki ….

  • http://www.artichoke.typepad.com Artichoke

    Thanks for the link to Chinnery’s paper Janet … I have just finished coding the framework against student learning outcomes in SOLO Taxonomy and have something that will be great to use with our ICTPD Cluster teachers in New Zealand when we talk about Google apps.

    Artichokes last blog post..If only Jane Gilbert had a blog …. and NZCER had a wiki ….

  • http://richardmillwood.net/ Richard Millwood

    “I think this general blah came from a few too many “according to Google…” sightings. Don’t you just want to say, “Google is not a person.”

    I have this same ‘blah’ feeling when academics say to me “the literature says…”, partly because it is a kind of power play and partly because I know how bad I am at conjuring up literature. Google is my friend for that reason alone…

  • http://richardmillwood.net Richard Millwood

    “I think this general blah came from a few too many “according to Google…” sightings. Don’t you just want to say, “Google is not a person.”

    I have this same ‘blah’ feeling when academics say to me “the literature says…”, partly because it is a kind of power play and partly because I know how bad I am at conjuring up literature. Google is my friend for that reason alone…

  • Brian

    So sad that people site Google as the mmm, ‘scholarly’ source…especially since the engine does a really good job of stating exactly how to cite its sources where applicable. 😉 In many cases you even get the choice of APA, MLA, and more…just cut and paste! Oops, there is that little matter of noticing the ‘references’ link and clicking it right?

    Then of course there’s the other 80% of the time when you’re directed to a site that has nothing to do with Google.

    Part of this citation nightmare may stem from hyperlink mania and a serious neglect of ‘research’ style reading and reporting in secondary english courses. How many web designers out there get swatted for putting a boring list of references on the front page? Lots! How many get chastised for daring to use a complete sentence, or having more than a paragraph on a page? Lots!

    Links, menus, fragments pointing to more fragments! Find a full article and well, it’s just the abstract with a link to buy the real thing for $9.99 plus postage. Bury the substance under a zillion hyperlinks.

    In that respect, I personally get tired of webized info as well. On the other hand, there may be something to it. The sites done that way get more hits, return hits……things that I well recall back in high school never got checked out in the library (if they even had a copy). Are most of the hits accidental or do people actually stop and read them? Hmmmm….our library never had a set of Harvard Dictionaries at all! No medical journals. Just that ancient set of World Books, a few out dated atlases, and some dictionaries. At least now people know these archives of information exist and that anyone can access them?

  • Brian

    So sad that people site Google as the mmm, ‘scholarly’ source…especially since the engine does a really good job of stating exactly how to cite its sources where applicable. 😉 In many cases you even get the choice of APA, MLA, and more…just cut and paste! Oops, there is that little matter of noticing the ‘references’ link and clicking it right?

    Then of course there’s the other 80% of the time when you’re directed to a site that has nothing to do with Google.

    Part of this citation nightmare may stem from hyperlink mania and a serious neglect of ‘research’ style reading and reporting in secondary english courses. How many web designers out there get swatted for putting a boring list of references on the front page? Lots! How many get chastised for daring to use a complete sentence, or having more than a paragraph on a page? Lots!

    Links, menus, fragments pointing to more fragments! Find a full article and well, it’s just the abstract with a link to buy the real thing for $9.99 plus postage. Bury the substance under a zillion hyperlinks.

    In that respect, I personally get tired of webized info as well. On the other hand, there may be something to it. The sites done that way get more hits, return hits……things that I well recall back in high school never got checked out in the library (if they even had a copy). Are most of the hits accidental or do people actually stop and read them? Hmmmm….our library never had a set of Harvard Dictionaries at all! No medical journals. Just that ancient set of World Books, a few out dated atlases, and some dictionaries. At least now people know these archives of information exist and that anyone can access them?

  • http://www.brandon-hall.com/ Janet Clarey

    Glad you found it helpful Artichoke.

  • http://www.brandon-hall.com Janet Clarey

    Glad you found it helpful Artichoke.

  • http://www.brandon-hall.com/ Janet Clarey

    Richard – i think researchers are a lot like mathematicians. There’s not a line forming to do the work but it sure comes in handy.

  • http://www.brandon-hall.com Janet Clarey

    Richard – i think researchers are a lot like mathematicians. There’s not a line forming to do the work but it sure comes in handy.

  • http://www.brandon-hall.com/ Janet Clarey

    Brian – many interesting points. I use Google to find peer reviewed studies as well as blogs. It is a quick way to get me to the other 5 people in the world interested in what I’m interested in. I think effective search skills are a new skill set for knowledge workers.

  • http://www.brandon-hall.com Janet Clarey

    Brian – many interesting points. I use Google to find peer reviewed studies as well as blogs. It is a quick way to get me to the other 5 people in the world interested in what I’m interested in. I think effective search skills are a new skill set for knowledge workers.

  • http://www.brandon-hall.com/ Janet Clarey

    Thanks for the memories…

    Reminds me of how we forget the little stuff like “htt what?” when entering a url. (that you don't even need to enter)…now explaining why computers are smart.

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