STUDENTS' tendencies to "just Google it" while ignoring subscription databases and primary sources raise concern among media specialists and teachers. Discussions about banning or limiting Google haven't gone away. Some have even suggested banning searching .com sites. The reality is we use Google for our own information needs, so why should we expect the students to only use what we want them to use? The consensus on this is that we should teach students how to search both Google and databases effectively. Nothing new here. But Google's Literacy Lesson Plans released in May 2012 are something new.
These lessons are designed to help media specialists and teachers teach students how to search Google effectively. They are aligned with Common Core State Standards for reading, writing, and language. Fifteen lessons are organized in five categories. Each category has lessons for beginning, intermediate, and advanced searchers. Some lessons overlap levels. The categories are as follows:
* Picking search terms
* Understanding search results
* Narrowing a search for better results
* Searching for evidence for research tasks
* Evaluating source credibility
The overview page provides introductory information, spells out the standards, and defines basic logistics of lesson design and teaching. A lesson plan map provides more details of each lesson in an easy-toread grid format. (See Figure 1.)
The step-by-step lessons are accessible as Google Docs. Each lesson includes embedded links to related resources such as web links, YouTube videos, and Docs Presentations. Features common to each lesson are as follows:
* An essential guiding question
* Lesson overview
* Alignment with Common Core Standards (sample list included later)
* Supporting resources and materials
* Lesson length (one or two 50-minute sessions per lesson)
* Teacher notes
* Step-by-step teacher directions along with links to supporting resources and speaker notes
* Suggested extensions and differentiation
In this month's New Media Center column, we'll look at selected lessons representing each level and category to give you a flavor of the lesson designs and their purposes.
PICKING THE RIGHT SEARCH TERM: BEGINNER
Essential guiding question: How can appropriate search terms and queries guide targeted searches?
We know what happens when students Google "Lions" or "Vikings" and get mixed, often distracting results. One "Picking the right search term" lesson is designed to help students use the appropriate terms so they do get the desired result. Activities encourage students to think about appropriate search terms and learn how search terms work to find information for them. Students are asked to identify keywords and gather information from print and digital resources. Some sections are based on searching for information related to the character Tyson in a Percy Jackson book. Supporting materials include a 3-minute, kid-friendly YouTube video, "How Search Works," a presentation with search result screen shots and clear visuals displaying how to parse a search question and use the words that yield the desired results. Other search examples ask students to find answers to questions about how to toss pizza dough, a cow with a blister, and other topics kids will enjoy. The lesson script provides enough details so the teacher knows what to do, say, and ask. The lesson can be done offline, a bonus for limited classroom internet access or for keeping students focused. (See Figure 2.)
EVALUATING CREDIBILITY OF SOURCES: BEGINNER/INTERMEDIATE
Essential guiding question: How do I evaluate the credibility of sources and determine which ones to use for a specific task?
This more complex lesson teaches students how and why researchers evaluate results, asking them to provide a rationale for why they chose a site. …