Monday, February 16, 2015

Google Search Tip - Use the Dialect of the Community

In a few weeks I will be flying to Australia to speak at the Future Schools Expo in Sydney. This will be the first time I have flown to Australia. Since Sydney is just about as far away from Portland, Maine as I could go and stay in the planet, I did a bit of research to find the most comfortable (by relative airline standards) plane and seat to choose to fly to Australia. (Yes, I realize that is the definition of first world problem).

To do my research I turned to the message board community on (it's kind of like Consumer Reports meets Trip Advisor for airlines). Once it was determined that I would be flying Qantas (I didn't have much choice on that matter) from Dallas to Sydney I set out to see what people were saying about seats on the A380 that flies on that route. I started out using the name Dallas in my search, but I didn't see nearly as many posts on the topic as I had hoped. Further, the posts that I did find were written by people who had made relatively few contributions to the community. After reading some not-so-helpful post I realized that most frequent contributors to the community don't actually spell out full city names. Instead, they use airport abbreviation codes like DFW when writing about Dallas. As soon as I switched out Dallas and for DFW in my search I found a lot more posts from frequent contributors to the FlyerTalk community.

How this applies to students:
A few years ago I heard my friend Tom Daccord at (an advertiser on this blog) give an example of social studies students researching films of the early 20th Century. In his example Tom mentioned that the students who insisted on using the term "movies" in their searches didn't get nearly as far as those who used terms like "talkies," "moving pictures," and "cinema." This was due to the fact that "movies" wasn't a part of the common dialect of film critics in the early 20th Century.

For students to understand the dialect of the topics that they are researching, they will have to do some prior reading and learning on the topic. One thing that I've asked students to do when reading primary sources that I've distributed to them is to highlight or write down the terms and phrases that are new to them. Often those highlighted terms and phrases often end up being a huge asset to them when they are trying to choose the best terms to use in Google searches.

By the way, if you copy and paste a primary document into Google Docs then share it with students, it is very easy for them to highlight new-to-them phrases and for you to see what they've highlighted. That is one of the activities that I model in my online course Getting Going With GAFE.