The Googlization of everything



The internet has changed the way with think of information. The web as we know it is significantly changing our literacy and information encounters.Participative  media tools have altered the shape and experience of learning, and provided teacher and librarians in this changing learning environment with the need to embrace new skills, new tools and new ways of working with literacy, information literacy and digital fluency. If there is any doubt about the scope and impact of the new technology environment, the Horizon Report K-12 edition (2011) issued annually since 2009 has identified and described emerging technologies that are having a significant impact on K-12 education, re-iterating the diversity of influences in the learning spaces of our schools.

For some the 21st century school library seems to be trapped on a treadmill of technological progress, while for others the mystique of new technology provides the only impetus needed to go further, faster, and in more directions at once. The best course, as always, is somewhere in the middle, and depends on an understanding of the emerging capacities of the internet that is now hardwired into our student’s lives.  Think of the web  as being portable,  focused on the individual, on a lifestream, on consolidating content, and which is powered by widgets, drag & drop, and mashups of user engagement.  This socially powered web is exploding, and is the new baseline for all our internet and technology empowered interactions.

Underpinning our knowledge transactions is the power of search or information connections between disparate sources and data pools.We are constantly looking for new ways to create, massage, analyze, and share information – at least I hope so! In our global info-maze, are school libraries at risk of becoming irrelevant, or is the librarian’s expertise more critical than ever?

To answer this question (in the context of the web) you need only turn to one thing to realize how vital – indeed critical – is the role of a quality information professional in our schools. The implications for education are profound because they will impact on our information literacy strategies and knowledge construction processes. While I do not for a moment underestimate the contribution of other geek, net savvy teachers to the learning environment in a school, I do wish they spent more time understanding the possibilities of information search and information curation.

So here follows a reflection about Google  – read it if you will, share it if you can, embrace the challenge if you dare!

1. Google is a problem. It’s not just because it’s embedded in the psyche of teachers and kids, but because it is not understood. Google is not a benevolent search engine. It has a commercially inspired ever-changing focus. Search Engine Optimization skews the results. Out personal login (if you are logged into gmail or iGoogle) changes the results. Google is a blessing and a scourge as a result – and it’s up to educators to point all of this out.

Do yourself a favour and get your school library to buy a copy of The Googlization of Everything by  Siva Vaidhyananthan professor of Media Studies and Law at the University of Virginia, then share it around and talk about the ideas. It’s less than $10 for a Kindle version – no excuses.

It’s not that I’m shooting Google  – I just really want teachers to get some wisdom around this whole ‘searching the net’ for answers that we expect of our students.I want librarians to be information evangelists via better Google usage. Take a short cut, and listen to a 4 minute podcast from Siva with Minnesota Radio. Or listen to Siva Vaidhyanathan talk about  The Googlization of Everything: (And Why We Should Worry) in a longer interview where Siva explores how so much of the world has embraced Google and our  need to look critically at that embrace.

2. Google should not be the first or last place to search. This is something we can spend a whole hour or day experimenting and learning more about. Take the time to look at Knowledge 2.0. This is a workshop session that can work really well in a hands-on setting. If you discover just one new approach to information management then it’s a win-win for your students.

3. Google has lots of neat tricks. Any Google Certified teacher will tell you about the advanced search options in Google. If you don’t have one of these on hand, then be sure to at least expore every single bit of the left-hand menu – and click on “more options” to find the hidden treasures. But when it comes to Google search, without a doubt, the best trick of all is Google Scholar and how to  set up your preferences to link directly with the databases that your school or institution has access to (including public libraries etc). Here’s an example from my library at CSU that shows tertiary students how to set this up. There’s a nice short video that explains it in more detail. Have you done this?

4. Google represents a renaissance. School librarians are involved with and responding to an information renaissance that is rewriting the world as we know it. Google epitomizes this renaissance by the very fact that it is there – always there, on any device 24/7.  Our students in primary and secondary schools need to be nurtured in ways to learn how to learn from a multiplicity of resources at their disposal, using   the best information organization and critical thinking strategies that that we can show them.  We need to build a culture of enquiry at the heart of each of our schools. It’s not just tools and skills.

Thinking about and organizing information  in a digital world has heralded a totally new approach to information curation. Emerging devices, tools, media, and virtual environments offer opportunities for creating new types of learning communities for students and teachers. Searching for content requires wise information literacy strategies (embedded in the curriculum learning processes) to avoid being lost in the information labyrinth.  Learn to understand this. Learn how to do this. Learn.

Image cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photoshared by Sheila Ryan

Google+ plus Deeper Web

Google Lego 50th Anniversary Inspiration

I have a feeling that there is still so much I have to learn about the ‘ins and outs’ of Google, Google+, whatever! What annoys me is how easy it is for me to miss or forget something important about the world of online search.

Here’s the thing –  I had completely forgotten that Google filtered my search results if I was logged into Google. My test run on a complex search showed me that Google cannot predict the information I need. Message to self – “log out of Google if you want to embark on some serious searching”.

So a comment from @hamishcurry today at the ScreenFutures conference  reminded me to share a ‘new’ enhancement of my Google experiences with Deeper Web – an innovative search engine plugin and an essential Firefox addon for Google. By my reckoning this is ‘old’ technology – a Youtube video pegs it at 2009, as does a bookmark in my Delicious collection from the same year.

Here is a Google+ experience of a different kind!  Who knew?

With Google Wonder Wheel retired (for a while anyway) I have installed this Google Search engine extension for a test run on my old MacBook.

Deeper Web results appear in the right hand of my search screen – though there are other options to choose from. Suddenly I have a way of filtering my searches on the fly – from sources and by tags, phrases, sites and zones. I can delete tags or phrases and the search results are automatically resorted.

I am also supplied with a series of window boxes below the tag window providing search results from a range of sources. I can hide those sources I don’t want to see e.g. Wikipedia, or Answers.  However, I do like the other collection options of ‘metrics search‘, ‘news search‘, ‘resources search‘ and ‘blog search‘. So I can see this needs further investigation – and perhaps I really should add this functionality to all my Firefox browsers on all my devices. I’m not sure what I am missing – but I must be missing something if this isn’t known or used more widely.

So while this is no direct replacement to Wonder Wheel, it seems a definite enhancement of my Google Search experience. Rather stupidly I am now  wondering what other tools or enhancements of my web search experience using Google I have forgotten or missed out on.

Please tell me if you know about something else that is pretty good. Tweet me, Facebook me, or Google+ me.  While the social networks go through a period of shakedown, I seem to have acquired another place to keep an eye on!

Google’s new search features …

This presentation by Karen Blakeman was given at the Online Information exhibition, Olympia, London,  1st December 2010.  It focuses on the new search features and options launched by Google this year and Google’s personalisation of results.

This is one for teachers and librarians to check out in more detail!

Infowhelm

The 21st Century Fluency Project provides educators with an innovative resource designed to cultivate 21st century fluencies, while fostering engagement and adventure in the learning experience.

Here you’ll find useful guides and other resources. To assist us in cultivating these new skills in our students, they have built an interactive online lesson and unit planning tool and have a team of dedicated educators developing hundreds of lesson plans. I’m looking forward to the public beta.

Meanwhile, you’ll enjoy their video about INFOWHELM:

We live in a 24/7 InfoWhelm world. We have access to more information than we will ever need. This video will tell you just how much information there is out there. It requires a different set of skills than the ones we leave school with today.

Semantics: a keystone of learning on the web

Web 3.0 or the Semantic Web is the development of the web as data are given meaning (semantics) which enable computers to look up and eventually “reason” in response to user searches. It’s early days yet, but because of that, it’s particularly interesting to delve into these changes to see how the Semantic Web might  affect education.

The Semantic Web holds three key features that are of interest to me.  The first is the capacity for effective information storage and retrieval. The second is the capacity for computers to augment the learning and information retrieval and processing power of human beings. The third is the resulting capacity to ‘mix and match’ that will extend and expand knowledge and communications capabilities of humans in multiple formats.

The Semantic Web is a vision of information  that is immediately  understandable by computers, so computers can perform more of the tedious work involved in finding, combining, and acting upon information on the web. As the Semantic Web becomes more of a realization, new technologies will also continue to enhance the learning process making flexibility and adaptability a keystone of learning. The unlimited mashup of dynamic information, all portable and tailored to your preferences will be the vehicle for learning in the future.

Linked Data is powering the web but mostly outside of libraries, so libraries and those that deal with information (educators) need to catch up.

Technology is evolving extremely quickly, and consumers are driving delivery methods – “get it to me on my device”. Live Serials explains:

The information industry is all about helping people to find things and linking students to the resources that they need. We need to rethink how we do this, bringing the information directly to the user, in the format that they want. There should be no need to bounce the user via resolvers and multiple URLs to a site that eventually proclaims “Here it is!”. It should just be delivered.

Education needs to link students to resources and search is only one way of doing this, but an essential way nevertheless.

When a 16-year-old student writes about a new Semantic Search Engine and provides an extensive review of it – at a time when most teachers are even oblivious of the sort of choices that are ‘out there’, I begin to worry for teachers and be excited for our students.

Take the time to read Xavier’s review of  Kngine at Kngine: The Smartest Search Engine Ever? which he says

aspires to be the next leader of the Semantic Web or commonly known as Web 3.0.  The Washington-based revolutionary Semantic search engine functions similarly to Wolfram Alpha, but much better (based on my personal opinion).

Cool review, cool search engine!




Safe online – fact or fantasy

http://www.danpink.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/01/hogwarts-e1264722646117.jpgI came  across two things this week that can help teachers with supporting good use of online spaces.  For some teachers  effective understanding of online spaces and places in terms of good information practice is still a bit of a fantasy tale – like finding Platform 9 3/4 for Hogwarts!

So the following guide is well worthwhile distributing to your school community.

Net Cetera: Chatting With Kids About Being Online,  gives adults practical tips to help kids navigate the online world.  Net Cetera covers what parents and teachers need to know, and issues to raise with kids about living their lives online.

What about the big student magnet  – Google?

Google published its five privacy principles for International Data Privacy Day on the 28th January.  OK, I admit that this is the other side of the coin.

However, it is important to understand exactly what our major online tools consider as important to their product – driven by business forces – as the fact that online tools are extensions of our kids brains means educators have a responsibility to keep in touch and activate the right options for online spaces and places.

Google’s Privacy Principles are:

  1. Use information to provide our users with valuable products and services. Search history informs personalized search, but users can opt-out.
  2. Develop products that reflect strong privacy standards and practices. For example, you can chat on Google Talk “off the record” so the conversation isn’t saved.
  3. Make the collection of personal information transparent. Last year, the Google Dashboard was launched to show you what info Google is collecting on you.
  4. Give users meaningful choices to protect their privacy. You can report privacy issues related to Street View. Google often blurs faces, for example.
  5. Be a responsible steward of the information we hold. Google doesn’t sell data to other companies.

You can view the published web document on Google’s privacy principles here.

(via Google  Search Engine Watch)

World Data: Keeping governments accountable

Data, data, data. There’s loads of it out there and more coming your way as governments open their statistics vaults around the world. First the US with data.gov, then Australia and New Zealand followed suit. Now it’s the UK’s turn with data.gov.uk.  (via Datablog)

Berners-Lee said about government data:

the public has in effect already paid for it through taxes; people can find patterns in the data that might not otherwise be obvious; and there is huge potential for new businesses, which would bring in tax revenues.

There are  now many sites around the world providing  access, but how can you find them?

Simple!  Just go to the  World Government Data Store!

At World Government Data you can:

• Search government data sites from the UK, USA, Australia, New Zealand and London (this comes under United Kingdom, if you want to browse) in one place and download the data (more sites to come)
• Help us find the best dataset by ranking them
• Collect similar datasets together from around the world
• Browse all datasets by each country

Each country has their own entry portal to the World Government Store as well.

Australia: data.australia.gov.au

New Zealand: data.govt.nz

UK: data.gov.uk;

London, UK: data.london.gov.uk

Many States in the USA.  Will any European countries join this endeavour?

Keeping governments accountable!




more from Tim Berners-Lee about UK’s free data website, posted with vodpod