A Google A Day…

green and yellow apple by Kortini (Flickr user)

Image cc license from Flickr user Kortini (Courtney Boyd): http://www.flickr.com/photos/kortini/2085952082/

It feels like a rather strained attempt at humour to complete the statement started in the title of this post with the traditional “keeps the doctor away,” simply because it is neither funny nor, at a guess, entirely accurate. Also, a quick perusal of the webpage about A Google A Day shows that other writers made the connection before me.

Better candidates that have not yet been posed to complete the phrase might include “keeps the doldrums away” or “keeps the brain from decay.”  While I doubt either statement will be immediately taken up by Google as a tagline for the product, A Google A Day, launched in April, may find success both as entertainment and as a learning tool.

What is A Google A Day? It is a daily puzzle that offers participants an opportunity to learn new facts while improving and augmenting their web search skills.  Unlike other trivia games where searching the Internet to find the answer is prohibited, web searching to find the answer is not only allowed but encouraged.  Every day, a new question is posted, and the following day, Google posts the answer as well as search tips and Google features that could be useful in finding the answer.

While A Google A Day is not a new thing, it is a tool whose possible applications for libraries and researchers I had not fully appreciated.  I am not sure how I overlooked the advent of A Google A Day, but a post on Disruptive Library Technology Jester  entitled  Teaching Search Engine Literacy with A Google A Day grabbed my attention and finally drove me to investigate further.  The message within the post that attracted me the most was an elegantly simple one — A Google A Day offers an opportunity to teach and learn more effective online searching skills.

For novice or less-confident users, A Google A Day is a learning opportunity disguised as a game, with no penalties for wrong answers or time limits;  particularly for those patrons and students who find the “help” section on Google searching too dense or uninteresting, the game educates covertly — sure, you learn the answer to the question, but now you also learned that, using “.pdf” in your search will help you retrieve only PDFs, a very handy skill to have when you’re looking for this type of material.  For those who are already experts at using Google, the daily question gives a chance to put into practice and augment established skills;  tips posted with the solutions and the resources at Google Inside Search could be useful in making searching even more efficient and even faster, and who wouldn’t appreciate locating information quicker and thereby saving time?

As I did not have the opportunity to test A Google A Day for myself during the week, I gave Sunday’s question a try: “Richard Henderson founded an American colony in 1775. Which current state once contained most of his short-lived colony?” I surfed the net, wandered hither and yon a bit, and found the answer, which I typed in on the main page of A Google A Day.  After clicking “Submit”, the system immediately told me whether my answer was correct; with an incorrect answer, one is encouraged to try again, while with a correct answer, one is told one way of finding the answer to the question.  While I did not learn any new Google skills in this example, I was definitely entertained and I now have another tidbit of interesting information I can share.  Best of all, I look forward to trying the game again.

— KRED

Special mention should be made of two other spots in the blogosphere that encouraged me to go and take a look at A Google A Day: Birdie at LISNews wrote a post on the subject, directing interested followers to a post by librarian Bill Drew on the same topic.

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