Google has done such an amazing job branding itself. The ease and simplicity of its search engine is spectacular. The challenge faced by educators is how to guide students to use Google in an efficient way. Well what I believe is happening, as it often does, is that the web is morphing to meet the need. New breeds of search engines are being developed. Search engines that endeavour to help the user meta-sort. The following is my experience with three such search engines:
iTouch meets Google as this search engine allows you to see 1/2 size webpages that match your query. It is currently in public beta. The "new" feature here is the meta sorting that is done for the searcher prior to actually hitting the search button. For example, our grade one students are currently studying butterflies.
As you type in the word butterflies, the search engine provides you with tags to choose from that allow the student to narrow the search. For example, in the case of butterflies, the students are able to narrow the search to the "INSECTS" tag. The extremely visual aspect of the search engine really appeals to the students.
This is a very interesting concept. KartOO is a metasearch engine with visual display interfaces. When you click on OK, KartOO launches the query to a set of search engines, gathers the results, compiles them and represents them in a series of interactive maps through a proprietary algorithm. Each page displayed in the map is visually linked to the various tags that apply. Again, this allows the user to narrow the search through tags.
Del.icio.us (as a search engine)
The algorithm here is really the number of people who felt this site to be worthy enough to add it to their account. Dollars to donuts this, to me, is the best rating system on the net. The reason I like using del.icio.us as a search engine is because you, not only get a good array of website, but you also end up being able to create a network of people with like interests as you. In addition, if you RSS the particular tag that you are searching, you will continue to get additional search results as people tag good websites.
I have yet to really unearth the algorithm that these search engines use. You can bet that it won't take online commercialism long to figure them out and exploit them to ensure that their product shows up first and/or often. I was showing these to a group of students from grade 1-3 who are in our advanced reading group. We were comparing the various search engines and one of my grade 3 students proceeded to explain to me that if you and your friends create enough accounts on facebook, myspace, various blogs, and various other networking sites and then ensure that they all link to each other you can ensure that when you type your name into Google, you will be at the top of the list. He and his friends couldn't tell me what algorithm meant, but they sure got the concept.
The final piece around searching that is relatively new to the education field is using RSS to extend the life of your search. But this is for another post.