Unit 5: Refine the web

Now we come to it: the core of the web, and of this course. Everything we’ve offered you so far has been in answer to one question – how can you make the web work for you? We’ve talked about ways of receiving, managing and sharing information, and different tools that help us do that. But now it’s time to focus on the one process that can help us master the web: search.

When we can find what we need easily, the web feels less like an enormous crazy universe, and more like a system of information at our disposal.  This is one of the keys to refining the web –  you can tame it, so that it becomes a very powerful part of your toolkit. You get to drive the spaceship.

It’s not even all that hard, thanks to the billions of dollars and brilliant minds involved in the creation of sophisticated search tools and enormous repositories of information. So let’s boldly go where no man … etc.

(We’re finished with the Star Trek references for now.)

Search and find

Searching online is easy! It’s now so common many of us hardly even think when we do it. Just type something into Google and voila! the answer appears, right? Well, maybe for answers to simple tasks (eg What year did World War I start?). But in the 21st century, knowledge is about effectively finding the best information, then understanding how to apply it to more complex tasks.

Searching effectively for resources and information is essential for educators, and for our own professional development. Too much precious time can be spent casting about for current content, new strategies, learning programs, and research to inform professional practice.

Those of us working with students can support them with tools and strategies to make huge differences in their work. Recent research from the Pew Internet Resource Centre found that young people expect quick results and become easily frustrated when searching; also they are often not discriminating in their choice of sources. Poor search skills can leave students (and us!) feeling frustrated, relying on low quality information, or giving up completely. Research and information skills are now key life skills – students who can’t find information easily are at a disadvantage, and isn’t their preparedness for future work and life the core purpose of our profession?

In this unit you’ll:

Time for take off! (Sorry.) Go to the first task.