Monday, January 30, 2023

Guided Search Challenges

Taking a lesson from my last post, I refreshed the Needle and Haystack Challenge series I created a couple years ago on the Information Fluency site. I realized that the "game" didn't teach much about search strategy. Instead, it was focused primarily on language skills. 

Over the weekend I refreshed my earlier work to embed search hints instead of having students try to figure out mystery clues that would guide them to the right information. In the process, I replaced the Identity Challenge with a new one that reinforces the keyword selection process instead of selecting the right database to search. The Identity Challenge, trying to find the unidentified author of an image, would be better as part of a series on knowing WHERE to search, not WHAT WORDS to use.

There are four search challenges in the current set:

  • ACORN -- finding the name of an obscure part of an acorn
  • INTRUDERS -- finding the first known instance of a wall that failed to keep out intruders
  • HAUNTED-HIKE -- finding the location of a hike reputed to be one of the most haunted places
  • RECLAMATION -- finding out the budget for a massive land reclamation project in Singapore

Each one is worth up to 5 points. The scoring follows the 1-in-5 Rule: on average, you have a 1 in 5 chance of using the same keywords on your first search as the person who wrote the information you are looking for. Find the answer to a challenge on the first try and you earn 5 points. If you take more than 5 tries, you earn nothing but we explain the answer. Along the way, search hints are provided that an expert researcher might use.

Curious? Give it a try. It's a free tool to help students test their ability to find better keywords. It also reinforces the practice of looking for better words in search results when the information there doesn't answer your question. 

Needle and Haystack Challenge

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