Magazine article Technology & Learning

In Search of ... the Perfect Search. (Viewpoint)

Magazine article Technology & Learning

In Search of ... the Perfect Search. (Viewpoint)

Article excerpt

Teacher portals, those resource-filled repositories of lesson plans, assignments, and screened links, seemed at one time to promise the most efficient way to whittle down the thousands of results garnered in one subject-area search. But as search engines like Google and Yahoo! increase in power, offering a wide range of helpful, efficient features, educators are increasingly relying on them as their first choice over education-specific portals, such as AOL@SCHOOL, bigchalk, and MarcoPolo. At least, that was the theory I was working with when the editors at Technology & Learning magazine asked me where educators were going online to find classroom resources. It turns out there was some truth to that theory. In an informal survey I conducted of over 100 teachers from the United States, Canada, and Australia, 84 percent indicated that they are now using search engines over teacher portals.

High Marks for Google

Perhaps not surprising, 58 percent of those surveyed named Google as their first choice, citing ease of use, clarity of design, comprehensiveness, and many handy built-in features. Copernic.com and Dogpile.com were also very popular, gathering a combined 18 percent of search engine use by those surveyed.

And the Engines Have It

Evidence shows that educators prefer search engines because the results include information from a much wider variety of sources. As one surveyed teacher replied, "I would rather cull the search responses on Google than deal with what [a portal] thinks is appropriate for kids."

Teachers who prefer search engines also viewed portal advertising as a turn-off. Portals are commercial tools designed to increase Web traffic and generate revenue from that traffic. Educators seem to accept and understand this. But when it comes to school resources, the traditional bias against advertising still stands.

Surveyed teachers also noted that portals tend to save their best services for paying customers. Because educators are usually strapped by tight budgets, the user-pay model in itself is not the first option for teachers or their schools.

While the quality of teacher portal data can be very high, its quantity can be a limiting factor. Currently, a portal database simply cannot keep up with the breadth and scope of a search engine like Google. …

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