teaching Google

On Monday, I read fellow-blogger Michael Gorman‘s piece about 10 Google tricks and tips for better searches. It was pretty good, so I figured that I would make up a slide show that would review these tips for my students. They likely knew all of them, anyway, I thought. They’re smart kids. Why would they need this? They’ve attended the class on library research and Internet research. This will be a wasted class….

But. I had a new iPad and I wanted to test the workflow of Keynote between Safari and other programs. I wanted to try out some techniques. So I made the slideshow. And then I showed it in class. And then another class. And then a group of students hanging around in the library. And then a group of teachers.

Why did I keep showing it?

Because it was new information to most of them, students and teachers alike. They didn’t know that if you put quotes around a “search phrase” it will search for that specific phrase. Or tat a minus sign (-) will remove implied search terms from the list of searches. Or that you can reduce the numbers of shopping-related terms. Or that you can arrange terms on a timeline. Or as a web. Or that you can search for related: terms or get Google to define: terms for you or find out how many sites link:URL to an address.

Nobody is a digital native. Nobody is born naturally knowing this stuff. If you assume that kids know much more about technology than you do, or you are afraid they will show you up — think again. Chances are, just introducing a group of students to the ways they can expand and deepen their use of Google as a search tool will deeply empower them and their ability to find and relate to information.

So here’s the slideshow. Hope that it’s useful to you and your students. And most of all, remember: They may not know it yet!

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  1. Andrew, I’m going to share your post, if you don’t mind, with the Google committee that I’m on at school. (We are thinking of moving from FirstClass to Google; although it won’t happen this year, it may happen in the future.)

    I chuckled when you mentioned boolean search functions in your post — I still do most of my Google searches this way:

    “andrew watt” + “teacher”

    I guess I just prefer the specificity!

    Oh, here’s something else that I just found out about Google. Let’s say that you have a Gmail address:


    Gmail has a secret little function that allows you to create aliases by simply adding a “+” sign to your existing e-mail address. So let’s say that you wanted your students to e-mail their assignments to you, but you wanted Gmail to filter those e-mails into a “Homework” folder. You could simply have the e-mails sent to:


    Then, you can set up a “label” (folder) in your Gmail inbox, filter everything coming to “mrwatt+homework” into that folder, and you have a nice, organized way to separate student work from your other e-mails!

  2. Andrew,
    I am glad you enjoyed my post and am honored that you put the information to awesome use. You are so correct. To many time we assume that today’s students are these digital natives that already have all the answers. The truth is they are natural with the technology, but we can still facilitate their integration, learning, and productivity. Great slideshow. Please continue to return as I will do the same. Keep up this outstanding blog and the sharing! Have fun googling! – Mike

    • I’m glad I could put it to such awesome use. In the form of a blog post, it wasn’t very useful to me as a teacher, because I could assign it to my students to read — but I couldn’t confirm that they read it, except by printing it out. But by having it as a slideshow, I could present it to them in class and judge whether it was worthwhile to continue.

      Thanks for putting the information together in a way that made it easy to create a slide show. It’s still missing slides on things like stocks, calculations, weather, time, and such… but it’s a definite improvement over single-word searches they were doing before.

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