Searching and Learning

We already have changed how we get information – instead of reading books or taking a course a lot of us just use Google or other search engines to grab the information we need. Unfortunately, there’s a contextual issue, where grabbing information off the Internet doesn’t necessarily provide some linear context for that information that may be important. Sure, with books you can use the index, find the pages that the information is on and scan for just what you need, but inevitably you end up reading at least a few paragraphs before and after and getting some context. Searching the Internet is different – we have Google as a situational context provider (even if it is false context, like Google lending it’s authority to search results). I’ve been thinking about how this ties into education – specifically higher education – and I think the way we informally learn information like we do through Google will trickle up to higher education. In ways, we already see this with how students use the Internet for research.

I’m not the only one thinking about this either, Futurelab released a poll a couple days ago asking (primarily K-8 teachers) which search engine they used. I answered the poll, even though I’m not in that demographic, I figured the more data the better. I think that this poll indicates that others are beginning to use search engines in their teaching – which further moves the teacher away from being the sage on the stage, and more towards the guide on the side (with thanks to my friend Otto who had a habit of saying this at least a couple times a semester and burned the phrase into my head).

Also, I was turned on to the book Search Patterns and the accompanying Search Patterns website – both of which the patterns of how people search – which has tremendous implications for how people learn using the Internet.

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