Helping students search the web

How do web-browsing students filter quality content from rubbish? Educators have long struggled with this issue. Edward Tenner writes in a New York Times Op-Ed piece about how advances in search engines may be leading to a decline in skills to structure meaningful web searches. The convenience of modern web-searching, he claims, has led to web-searching malaise.

One consequence of Google’s efficiency, writes Tenner, is that users no longer need to think as deeply about how to find good information. He goes on to claim that a consequence of Google’s brand of citation analysis is that it tends to “display irrelevant or mediocre sites on a par with truly expert ones” because it is more concerned with ranking sites by how often they are linked to other highly ranked sites, not necessarily by how often they are linked to other high quality sites. Google’s powerful advanced search options can provide remedies to this, but they are rarely used— especially by students.

Educators, take note. Making web searching more of a challenge may be a key to helping students find better information.

posted April 21, 2006 by matt

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