While I considered myself fairly adept at online searching in general and using Google in particular, there were things lurking behind the Advanced Search options that made me balk. Date ranges and searching within websites, but filetype? Those colour options in the Image Search? Some features had been added since I’d focused on mastering online searching skills (aka grad school), and while I was picking up tips and tools through Google-a-Day, I discovered that far too often, I found the answer and then moved on, without looking at the tricks recommended by Google.
So when I saw announcements last year for a free online course titled “Power Searching with Google“, it sounded like a great opportunity. Taught by Senior Research Scientist Daniel M. Russell, the course uses online videos, exercises, and assignments to help users learn more about how to effectively and efficiently search and retrieve valuable results using Google. There were Google+ hangouts, and Google+ was used as a forum on which participants could share strategies, experiences, and insight.
I am adjuncting a course this semester called Global Systems and Societies. The course provides a nice wide umbrella to discuss all things related to globalization, politics, societal shifts, and other forces of global change. One theme that I have been consistently emphasizing is the danger of only hearing one perspective, one voice. Whether it is developing students’ media literacy, exposing them to opposing viewpoints, or merely showing students that there are different facets of our world, educators play an invaluable role in developing the next generation of critical reasoners and leaders. It is also essential to show students that in those varied voices, they can find their own and feel included. Finally, as researchers, we must value the many voices that gives us differing perspectives of phenomena and lived experience to make our research as complete as possible. One of my favorite TED talks is from Chimamanda Adichie, who warns of the danger of only hearing one narrative in a world of billions.
Research has demonstrated that short breaks can increase overall productivity. Next time you take a break, instead of playing Angry Birds, try Sporcle. Sometimes, playing ten rounds of Angry Birds feels relaxing, but at other times, it can seem too mindless and not fulfilling. Using Sporcle, one could instead spend five minutes matching countries and flags, identifying elements of the periodic table from their symbols, and determining which lines of dialogue come from Space Balls and which come from Star Wars, which can feel like time well (or better) spent.
Sporcle has the appropriate tagline “Mentally Stimulating Diversions”, which seems very appropriate. Use of Sporcle will not bring you any closer to finishing that paper or blog post you’re supposed to be writing or knocking items off your lengthy to-do list. However, when combined with self-control, it can provide a few much-needed minutes of entertainment that won’t leave you feeling as though you’ve killed brain cells unnecessarily. You didn’t waste time, you tested your general or subject-specific knowledge and improved the likelihood that you, too, will have what it takes to more successfully compete in pub quizzes.
When I teach, and when I talk with colleagues about quality of work by students in our courses and classrooms, I have a strong conviction that you need to find a way to instill media literacy and a sense of what are respectable sources for information. Regardless of the age of student – whether it is a professional pursuing an advanced degree or a first year student – there exists a need to orient students with what is and is not acceptable to cite in scholarly writing. We sometimes take for granted what are sources of reputable information, and far from trying to make a political statement about how journalistic sources are oriented, there is a deeper concern when the internet is such readily available, and exploitable, resource. The following post is an overview of my experience with the teaching and using of reliable sources, and how to work with your scholars to make sure they are using the best resources available to them.