Using features of Google Search & the new Research Panel in Docs

I’ve started creating some simple screencasts of different ways you can effectively use Google search and Google Apps for Education for teachers and librarians.  This first video showcases the “preview panel” in the Search results panel as well as filtering the results using the sidebar and “related searches”.  Too often I see students looking at the first results from a Google search and not taking advantages of these features.  The video also introduces the new Research panel that is now built into Google Docs which is great way to continue to see your search results right from your document and use the link & citation features.

Smart Search

 Smart Search ideas shared at #edcampPDX on 2/4/12

Social Bookmarking

Content Curation tools

Content Creation Primer by Beth Kanter

EduBloggerCon 2010

My head is still spinning from EduBloggerCon but I want to write down a few notes and impressions of my time today.  My goal today was to really listen, participate, ask questions, and think.  I barely went online and I barely tweeted out a link (I figured everyone else had the smackdown covered.)

I facilitated a session called “Crap Detection and Student Research” and asked teacher-librarians and all interested educators to discuss how we can effectively teach research skills.  Here are some of my fragmented thoughts

  • Angela Maiers passionately explained her view of literacy.  Critical literacy can start at pre-school with the types of questions we ask students.  When reading, we ask the student to answer these questions:  What is being said?  Who is sharing the message? Why is it worthy of my attention?  We read with the writer in mind and then when we write – we write with the reader in mind.  Just imagine if every teacher K-16 led their students with these type of questions, evaluations… we wouldn’t have high school teachers complaining that “kids today don’t know how to properly cite sources”.
  • We can model for students how to attribute authority during everyday conversations & when teaching.  For example, say ” According to the source __________ …” instead of just stating a fact.  By modeling this type of references, we constantly are asking our students to evaluate the source, is it credible, what is the author’s point of view.  We can change how we frame the conversation … “How does the author fee about …” Ask more questions and give less delivery of information.  When older students are stating a fact, ask them to back up their statement with a source or reference.
  • By placing our students in the position of authors themselves, we give them the opportunity to really care about their topics and then they take ownership of backing up their topics.
  • When doing more formal research, give the students scaffolding to help them through the process.  Joyce Valenza said “Don’t place the oweness on the child.”  Search tools can help compensate for the their lack of knowledge of how the search process works (like Google WonderWheel and Timeline) but we need to model the lessons and show them our thinking process.   Joyce discussed having high school students created critical annotative citations of their research to explain why they used a particular sources and how it demonstrates evidence of their research.  They need to “search with intention.”
  • David Warlick stated several times that students need to CARE about their research topics.  It’s not just enough these days to “do research” on a topic. Instead of writing a report ABOUT something – conduct research that supports a goal, an opinion,  a comparision or something they are passionate about.  One of the Australian teachers shared a great project done at their school – something like a CSI crime investigation to teach and model critical thinking and investigative research.
  • Howard Reingold work was cited, Crap Detection 101 and the Critical Thinking Wiki.
  • Instead of using a checklist to evaluate websites to check for credibility (ie, source, author intention, domain) we can use all type of sources – including primary sources of blogs, twitter, & wikis to check facts against and develop those critical evaluation skills.

My overall impression of the session is that I really want to think about how I frame my questions with my students when they are conducting research in the library.  I hope to influence teachers to “work in a project-based environment where the core values of inquiry, research, collaboration, presentation and reflection” (vision statement taken from Science Leadership Academy).

Tech Tip Tuesday: new Google search options

This past month Google unveiled some very helpful Search Options.  Search Options are a collection of tools that allow you to view your results in new ways.  After you search, click on the “show options” link in the upper left hand side of your screen.  This reveals ways you can redefine your results.

The options are grouped together by their type and you can combine options for more precise searches.  The explanation for these features is taken from the Google Search help:

Video: You can sort videos based on their attributes, such as length or date.

Forums: For each result, you can see, among other details, how many people have contributed to the discussion and when the last reply was posted.

Reviews: See results from sites that specialize in posting reviews.

Recent Results: Google automatically optimizes the time period used for your filter to make sure that the most relevant and recent results are included. (This option is only available when All results is selected in the first group of options.)
Past 24 hours / Past week / Past year Use these options if you want to find web pages from a specific period of time.

Images: See image thumbnails from the page alongside the snippet for each result.

More Text: Snippets give you a preview of how words from your search term are used within each result. Click this option to get longer snippets, which will let you see more examples of your search term for each result. Longer snippets can also be useful if you have a lengthier search phrase

Related Searches / Wonderwheel: If you’re ever unsure about the precise terms you should use for your search, start out with a broader search term (e.g. [ principles of physics ]), then use the Related searches and Wonder wheel options to discover alternative search terms.

  • The Related searches option puts related searches at the top of the results page.
  • The Wonder wheel visually presents connections between related searches and your search term as an interactive diagram. Click the different nodes in the diagram to see how searches can branch out.

Timeline: See results along a timeline, which is a handy view if you’re researching information about a historical person or event. You can click any section in the timeline to zoom in on that time period.

Don’t want to see the search options on the sidebar?  Just click on hide options and your search results turn back to normal.  Also don’t forget to clik on the Reset Options to stop filtering if you choose to narrow your search by time or category.

Ideas for classroom use:

  • Use Wonder Wheel to teach students how to narrow down their search results by clicking on one of the related terms on the wheel.
  • Use the Timeline view to see when certain terms (like: swine flu) show up throughout history.
  • the Past 24 hours option is great to help you find information about current events.
  • Use Reviews to assist is making purchases for the classroom.

Watch a video overview of search result options

Looking at Library Gateways

With most information just a Google away, some people might wonder if there is any need for Library gateways these days.

Library gateways are collections of databases and informational sites, arranged by subject, which have been assembled, reviewed and recommended by specialists, usually librarians. (from Bare Bones 101)

You should use library gateways when you are looking for high quality information sites on the Web. You can be fairly certain that these sites have been reviewed and evaluated by specialists for their accuracy and content.

The Internet Public Library ( was originally founded by a class at the University of Michigan’s School of Information but now has moved to Drexel University’s College of Information Science and Technology and a consortium of colleges and universities with programs in information science is developing and maintaining the IPL.

The Internet Public Library contains 45,000 high quality links and maintains an email reference section. The links are reviewed by library science graduate students and must meet strict guidelines. An abstract is written for each site and placed in the appropriate category.

In addition to Subject Collections (Art & Humanities, Business, Computers, Education, Leisure, Health, Law & Government, Regional, Science, and Social Science), the IPL also maintains collections of Newspapers, POTUS (Presidents of the United States, Exhibits, Science Fair and more.

My favorite area is called TeenSpace.You’ll find articles written for teens to help solve problems, links to web sites they can use for homework, and a place to ask questions.

Need an answer fast? Hundreds of their most popular questions and answers are listed on the Frequently-Asked Reference Questions pages. If you can’t find the information there you can submit a question directly to a reference librarian:

Here are some other Library Gateways to check out:

Web page portals are getting an extreme makeover

According to Bare Bones 101, the definition of a Portal:

Portals are directories that have been created or taken over by commercial interests and then reconfigured to act as gateways to the web. These portal sites not only link to popular subject categories, they also offer additional services such as email, current news, stock quotes, travel information and maps.

Some of the best examples of portals are Yahoo, AOL and MSN. These websites want you to use their page as your home page. When you open up your browser – everything is there: mail, weather, news, stocks, etc.. The only problem is that most of the content on the front of these pages are “sponsored links”. The pages are busy and have a lot of ads.

With the invention of personalized homepages like iGoogle, MyYahoo, MyAOL, Pageflakes, Netvibes, and Windows Live – I think we will see less and less use of the traditional portal page. If you already have a Gmail account, you should definitely set up your iGoogle page. It’s fun to add new widgets for mail, calendar, RSS, weather, joke of the day, etc. I get to choose what’s on my homepage. I don’t need MSN to tell me what to read or look at anymore.

Image source:

Subject Directories – You’ve come a long way, baby!

Remember what the Yahoo website looked like 10 years ago? No? Just go to “The Wayback Machine” and you can pull up an archived version of their page. A sample is here (right). Remember how Yahoo “attempted” to organize web sites into categories. First you would start in a subject area like Science … then click on a category like Astronomy … then finally to a huge listing of websites?? Takes you back huh?

According to Bare Bones 101:

Subject directories, unlike search engines, are created and maintained by human editors, not electronic spiders or robots. The editors review and select sites for inclusion in their directories on the basis of previously determined selection criteria. The resources they list are usually annotated. Directories tend to be smaller than search engine databases, typically indexing only the home page or top level pages of a site. They may include a search engine for searching their own directory (or the web, if a directory search yields unsatisfactory or no results.)

Today, the line between subject directories and search engines is blurring. Most subject directories have partnered with search engines to query their databases and search the web for additional sources, while search engines are acquiring subject directories or creating their own.

For example, look at these 3 versions of Yahoo:

One of the best subject directories out there is the Open Directory Project The Open Directory Project is the largest, most comprehensive human-edited directory of the Web. It is constructed and maintained by a vast, global community of volunteer editors. From their website:

The Open Directory was founded in the spirit of the Open Source movement, and is the only major directory that is 100% free. There is not, nor will there ever be, a cost to submit a site to the directory, and/or to use the directory’s data. The Open Directory data is made available for free to anyone who agrees to comply with our free use license.

The Open Directory powers the core directory services for the Web’s largest and most popular search engines and portals, including Netscape Search, AOL Search, Google, Lycos, HotBot, DirectHit, and hundreds of others.

Subject directories are best for browsing and for searches of a more general nature. They are good sources for information on popular topics, organizations, commercial sites and products. When you’d like to see what kind of information is available on the Web in a particular field or area of interest, go to a directory and browse through the subject categories.

Some other subject directories to check out:

Next up: Portals …

Comparision of Search Engines

Search Engines  

More information from Search Engine Watch





(maintain their own database of websites)




(search the database of other SE)


Subject Directory


(organized by categories)




(subject directories serving as home pages)


Library Gateway


(maintained by Librarians)


Subject – specific database


(focused on one topic)



Open Directory Project




Library of Congress


Librarians Index to the Internet


Internet Public Library




Internet Movie Database


Roller Coaster Database (blogs) (jobs) (medical) (cars) (travel) (shopping)


Meet the Metasearch Engines

From Bare Bones 101: A Basic Tutorial for Searching the Web

Metasearch engines do not crawl the web compiling their own searchable databases. Instead, they search the databases of multiple sets of individual search engines simultaneously, from a single site and using the same interface. Metasearchers provide a quick way of finding out which engines are retrieving the best results for you in your search.

One of my favorite Metasearch engines is Dogpile. Dogpile was launched in 1996 but it is currently operated by InfoSpace. Dogpile searches the Web by searching the databases of the Internet’s top search engines: Google, Yahoo! Search, Ask, Live Search, About, MIVA, LookSmart, and more.

On the main page of Dogpile are options to search for “Web”, “Images,” “Audio,” “Video,” “News,” “White Pages,” and “Yellow Pages”. First you type in your keyword (such as Portland Trailblazers) and then the results of your search will be listed by relevance. The results display a short description of the site and which search engine database retrieved the listing.

Some special features:

  • The site will offer suggested spellings for words that may be misspelled and automatically corrects commonly misspelled keywords.
  • Dogpile blocks potentially explicit content for multimedia searches in Moderate setting and for all searches when in Heavy setting.
  • For most search results, Dogpile provides you with a list alternative search terms under the heading “Are you looking for?”
  • The Recent Searches area allows you to view your previous search terms (15) and then click to retrieve past results quickly without having to re-enter in your search terms into the search box.

The only downside is that Dogpile ‘s results include sponsored (paid) listings for some keywords. Students might not be aware that these are sponsored links since they are NOT very well marked and interspersed throughout the search results. When I searched for Portland Trailblazers, the second listing was a sponsored results for a “trailblazer” car. Not exactly the type of listing that should be at the top of a search about a basketball team!!!

Like the other leading search engines, Dogpile primarily makes money from sponsored links and advertisements but the fact that they include Sponsored Links throughout the search is fairly new and may deter me from recommending the site in the future. The jury is still out on that one.

Some other Metasearch engines to check out:

Effectively searching on the Internet

I just began my unit on “Effectively searching on the Internet” this week with my middle and high school students and I want to share a wonderful resource I use. Bare Bones 101 was originally created in 2000 by Ellen Chamberlain, Library Director at the University of South Carolina Beaufort campus. It is now being managed and updated by Melanie Hanes-Ramos.

I use the lessons on Bare Bones 101 to introduce the concept of search engines to my students. The lessons do a great job of explaining what is a search engine, how to search engines work, what is the difference between a keyword and Meta search engines, how do subject directories work, who maintains library databases and subject-specific databases and explains search strategies. The lessons are very clear and easy to use and give links to many search engines and short activities to search and compare results.

We all love Google and probably will also go there first, but my students are finding some nice feature to other search engines. They are worth checking out so I will highlight the features of one type of search engine in each post. Individual Search engines compile their own database of web pages.

Ask debuted in 2001 and was purchased by Ask Jeeves later that year. Although it supports only limited Boolean searching, it has recently added an advanced search page with improved searching features. Ask also offers a new approach to displaying search results by putting them into what it calls Web communities: Results (relevant web pages), Refine (suggestions to narrow your search), and Resources (links to collections of experts and enthusiasts).

On the main search of Ask, you can search for web, images, city, news, blogs, video, maps, shopping. You can also choose your own skin. My students loved this feature.

  • A drop down listing of other keywords appear when you type in the search box
  • Displayed on left panel of the search results are ideas on how to narrow or expand your search and related names.
  • Unfortunately, there are sponsored links at the top of the results page highlighted in a very light blue box – hard to tell the difference than regular result.
  • The right panel may show a sneak preview of results from images, Wikipedia, event listing, dictionary, video, time, etc – it depends on your keyword.
  • Move your mouse over a small binocular and it displays a mini-version of the homepage of your results.
  • AskEraser is a new privacy feature from When AskEraser is enabled your search activity will be deleted from servers (except in rare circumstances).

Overall, my students really liked Ask. They loved the preview with the binoculars and skins. I like that it give you ideas on how to broaden or narrow your search. Here is the link to all of the features of Ask.

Some other Individual search engines worth checking out: