Sweet Search: search tool for students

Most search engines search billions of Web sites and return tens of millions of results; some are from reliable Web sites, some are not.  SweetSearch searches only 35,000 Web sites that have been evaluated and approved by a staff of Internet research experts at Dulcinea Media, and its librarian and teacher consultants.

SweetSearch allows students to choose the most relevant result from a list of credible results, without the distraction of unreliable sites.

SweetSearch may be worth testing to see how it compares with the Australian Study Search – a custom Google search tools for Primary and Secondary schools.

(via AltSearchEngines)

Mobile Visual Search

Mobile visual search signals a very interesting shift in product marketing. Perhaps this is also a introducing a significant shift in information search  for students too?

Right now we can ask:  What is the object? Where can I get it? What it is useful for?  What do others say about it? Does it help me understand (something I’m learning about )  a little better?

In the future?

more about “Mobile Visual Search“, posted with vodpod

 

Timeline yourself – your past is with you

The Dismissal, 1975

The Dismissal, 1975

A cold night in, by the fire with my MacBook and playing with online sites gave me an insight into the digital future of our students.

We often talk about ‘digital footprints’ and the importance of digital citizenship in the learning experiences of our students. Students interact with music, movies, software, and other digital content every day. In fact, now it starts before they even know what is happening, with blogs, videos, and images online right from birth, put there by doting parents and family. But for us it’s a little different. “Digital” is something new in our lifetime.

I played with AllofMe – an online tool to ‘timeline yourself’.  I didn’t find much of course, because I haven’t been online for much of my life!! unlike the kids today who in 2050 could find memories of things long forgotten – the good, the bad and the ugly of who they were and who they wanted to be.

But I got a tiny taste of how it would be for our kids – AllofMe dredged up a snippet of myself in 1975 – the year that the Australian Library Association appointed it’s first Industrial Information Officer – me!!

I’m embarrassed to think how little I knew but how audacious I was to embark on that role. I set the position up, then left to raise a family.  I have no recollection of that issue of  The Australian Library Journal now.  But I do remember my tour of significant libraries around the country which I undertook as part of my information research.  I was even a guest speaker for an AGM   in Melbourne (perhaps at the State Library?) – my first ever public engagement  in my working life.

Must have said a lot of rubbish :-)

Content used to be king

There was a time when books, newspapers, magazines and journals were the prime source of content and information.  It was always your move! navigating the authority maze,  enjoying slow reading of (limited) information sources in order to gain a knowledge base that matched a particular curriculum outline.

This was when content was king and the teacher was the sage on the stage.

Now communication is the new curriculum, and content is but grist to the mill that churns new knowledge. Why?  I came across a few good reads this week that set me thinking and wondering about the changes that we must support in our teaching and in our library services.

Think about this:

The era of Teacher Librarians  ‘taking a class’ in order to show kids how to search, get basic skills, or navigate resources is over. This is a teachers job!!  Teach the teacher by all means (that’s professional development) but don’t waste time doing repeat performances for a teacher who hasn’t caught up with how to integrate information resources into the curriculum.  How can they claim to be good teachers if they can’t model how to use information effectively?  How to use new search tools? How to navigate databases? These ARE NOT specialist skills any more – they are core skills for learning!

The era of collaborating, communicating and integrating resources flexibly and online is here to stay. Every form of interactive and social media tools should be deployed by school libraries to support learning, teaching and communicating with and between students. Are teachers ready for this?  Are your own library staff ready for this?

So what is the situation with content?

Dave Pollard wrote about The Future of Media: Something More than Worthless News. Agreed, the reason he wrote the post is quite different to mine – but in a lateral kind of way, what he wrote has huge relevance to information professionals. Media is changing, and the way media can work for or against learning is deeply concerning. Dave writes

Few people care to take the time needed either to do great investigative work, or to think creatively and profoundly about what all the mountains of facts really mean.

There’s the rub – mountains of fact. Authority and relevance are as nothing when we are confronted with mountains of information to sift and verify. The alternative is to grab ‘something’ and miss the opportunity to engage in real metacognitive knowledge activities.

The diagram Dave offers provides a strong framework for information professionals. How do we deal with new and urgent information need? What value do we place on media scrutiny?

Of course we can’t answer these questions effectively without taking into consideration the shifting dimensions of interoperability and semantic search. We are datamineing on the one hand, and creating data on the other.

Now what’s the implications of this? Semantic search depends on our tags! and our tags depend on our understanding of the strengths and weaknesses inherent in data sets.   It all depends on how things are defined and linked! Duplicate and meaningless content is created by poor  search engine optimization and keyword cannibalisation.  This means that the info junk pile continues to grow. The Search Engine Journal provides a good set of graphics (with explanations) that spell out these problems .

Here’s a simple image that demonstrates a good interlinking strategy. Then go and examine the canonical solution – looks like the stuff of good information professionals to me!

Of course, alongside the need for good search engine optimization is the growth in search functionality and growth in search engine options. Google has  some new features that have been tested in the past months. Google wants to expose some advanced search options that allow you to refine the results without opening a new page. The options are available in a sidebar that’s collapsed by default, but it can be expanded by clicking on “Show options”.

You’ll be able to restrict the results to forums, videos, reviews and recent pages. There’s an option that lets you customize the snippets by making them longer or by showing thumbnails, much like Cuil. Google wants to make the process of refining queries more fun and exploratory by adding a “wonder wheel” of suggestions.

Maybe I’ll just stop thinking and wander right off and do some Semantic Web Shopping!

What? more issues to consider?  not my move anymore? ….. massive change is pushing us into a  21st century information maze.

Change is coming (image by Maria Reyes-McDavis)

Change is coming (image by Maria Reyes-McDavis)

Search engine optimization

Google’s Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide is a document that first began as an effort to help teams within Google, but we thought it’d be just as useful to webmasters that are new to the topic of search engine optimization and wish to improve their sites’ interaction with both users and search engines.

Search engine optimization is often about making small modifications to parts of your website. When
viewed individually, these changes might seem like incremental improvements, but when combined
with other optimizations, they could have a noticeable impact on your site’s user experience and performance in organic search results. If you are a webmaster, you’re likely already familiar with many of the topics in this guide, because they’re essential ingredients for any webpage, but you may not be making the most out of them.

From teachers or an information professionals point of view, understanding this guide is also important. It’s a level of understanding that can be used by us to help guide our own student’s interaction with the online world. They need to know about search optimization – because the world is often more about marketing than it is about altruistic sharing of information!