Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Transparent Searching

I've been developing some new resources to use with elementary grade students, under the unfortunately long working title, "Five things every child should know about searching before entering middle school." The other day I posted the first of these simplified challenges online. Since then, I've added two more.

On our 21CIF ning, Dennis and I put out a call for Beta Testers to try out the new games and give us some feedback. I was interested by a request for a demonstration search. For me, creating a demonstration search might show players how to play the game, but it would also provide an opportunity to make the search process more transparent.

Whenever I use the regular Keyword Challenges with a group of adults in a workshop, I overhear, "Gee, I thought I was a better searcher until I tried this!" Adults tend to make the same mistakes as students, choosing ineffective words and often too many words. Searching isn't rocket science--knowing a few things about words is all it takes to improve one's results (e.g., if a word has multiple meanings, if a unique combination of words can be used, if any proper nouns or numbers are available, if there are any redundant or stop words that should be eliminated).

That's the real reason I created a demonstration search, and plan to create a few more. I encourage you to try it out and see if this helps make the art of searching more transparent.

The Soccer Challenge is about a deaf horse that plays soccer. I came across the story in a blog this morning and did the usual background testing. It's a pretty good search because there is also a sport called horse soccer that complicates the query. Unless you choose words sparingly and avoid using any of those tempting verbs, you are not likely to find the story or the name of the horse.

Of course, in this posting I've given you other clues that you might be tempted to use (blog, a date, etc.). Try it just with the words in the challenge and kudos to the first person who posts the name of the horse!

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