Students who are not taught search strategies come up with them on their own. Intuitive, home-grown approaches may be successful, leaving the impression that searching is relatively easy. Trouble ensues when the challenges are no longer easy.
Many things students search for are not hard. Google is well-designed to find the easy stuff.
School assignments, on the other hand, can be harder:
"Are children becoming smarter (or more socialized) because of the Internet?
To what extent are fast food restaurants responsible for obesity?
What are the possible consequences of laws that may be created to prevent bullying?
These and other questions can be extremely challenging to search online. Knowing how to retrieve relevant information using queries isn't obvious. Clear answers to the research questions may not even exist.
Search Challenges help students recognize their shortcomings while searching. Challenges start easy (Level 1) and get progressively harder. At some point, students will fail. This is the teachable moment. "Would you like to learn more effective ways to search?"
Challenges may be experienced individually or as a group. A good way to introduce Search Challenges is to bring a group together and display a Challenge. Look at the statement to solve: "What are we searching for?" This is a very important step, since the only sure way not to find what you are looking for is to look for the wrong thing. Then start the Challenge. Ask for query suggestions. Test them. Look at the results. "Are we getting closer?" If not, try another query. If so, the next step may be browsing to find the answer.
Each Challenge has an explanatory page that provides details about the skills required and how an answer/solution may be found.
Once a group has the grasp of how this works, let them work individually or in pairs, querying followed by looking at results followed by re-querying or browsing the text to answer the Challenge. If the correct solution is entered under time, the students will see that. If not, time may run out or feedback on an incorrect solution will be given. Times are given, because it's easy to get frustrated by working too long on a Challenge with too little success. Don't let students dwell on failure. Move them to the solution/explanation pages. It's also OK--and advised--to stop occasionally to provide suggestions and feedback.
Search Challenges are not sufficient alone. They drive home a pain point. Something more is needed: instruction in effective search strategies. That instruction may be direct, standing in front of the group, or self-paced using MicroModule Tutorials.
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