Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Power Searching at the Googleplex

Today I had the opportunity to attend a session on web search led by Daniel M. Russell,  "Google Search Quality and User Happiness" guru. With me at the Googleplex in Mountain View were roughly 30 educators, mostly from the Bay Area.

Dan was a very engaging host and presented us with several "wicked" search challenges. Here are a few for your enjoyment (you'll have to find the answers yourself!):

Search Problem #1: What day of the week was the current US Secretary of State's birthday in 1984?

Search Problem #2: When an artist is making a sculpture for a client, they often make a small version of the sculpture in wax or clay. They're usually a preliminary sketch, presented to the client for approval. What is this thing called?

Search Problem #3: I was hiking in the woods nearby in March when I saw a pretty blue flower. It was about 3 feet high, and grew along the pathway in the middle of the woods in Henry Coe State Park. Here's a picture of it. What flower is it?

The common theme of all of these search challenges is that you don't know what you are searching for. Most of the time we search using general terms to find more specific information. These are easy searches such as "capitol of Montana."

I have continued to ponder what it means to ask "Google-Proof  Questions." The type of search challenges that Dan gave in his session helped me realize that the most challenging questions are those in which the desired search term is unknown. I would consider myself a pretty advanced searcher, but even I got stumped by a few of these challenges. Giving such challenges to students helps build critical thinking and analytical skills. This is definitely something that I will be incorporating into my lessons this year!

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