Wednesday, January 22, 2014

What an Insect Can Teach Students About Search Strategies

Last week in my house I found an insect that I had never seen before. I tried to get the clearest picture I could of it before settling on the not-so-clear picture you see to the left. The construction of my house was just completed in October so I was worried that this bug might be something that could damage my house. I immediately went to Google to try to figure out what this mysterious insect was and if it could damage my house. Let's take a look at the search strategies I used to try to find my answers.

1. I tried uploading the picture to Google Images and adding the words "insect" and "Maine." That wasn't terribly effective because my picture was of a low quality and what I ended up with didn't get me very far. (I didn't expect that this method would work given the low quality of my image). Read more about this strategy here.

2. As I always encourage others to do, I created a list of the information I already had before going onto my next search attempt. Here's what I knew:

  • The insect is brown-ish. 
  • The insect was in my house which has lots of pine board, tongue and groove, ceilings. 
  • My house is sided with wide live-edge pine boards that were installed and sealed in October. 
  • If I type "bug" into Google I'm going to get results for the insect and the car. I needed to search using the word "insect" to refine my search from the start.  
  • I was worried about invasive insect species. 
3. Given everything I knew about the situation what I ended up using for search terms were "Maine insects home" which landed me here where I found a picture of the insect in question. From there I jumped to a fact sheet about the insect. The fact sheet answered my question about whether or not the insect could damage my house.  

Feel free to use this picture (click it to enlarge it) and search challenge with your students. Can your students find out if this insect will damage my house? Is the insect native to the ecosystem of Maine?