Assessing Google as a Teaching & Research Tool

When I recently asked a group of librarians how they thought Google organized its search results, the first suggestion was that Google counts the number of clicks on the links, and adjusts its rankings accordingly.

Most of the people in the room seemed satisfied with that answer, but one person volunteered the clarification that Google counts the number of links pointing to a page. That second answer is closer to the truth.

We know our students use Google, and we ourselves use Google to prepare for classes. We should know how Google works, so we can accommodate its weaknesses. —Dennis G. JerzAssessing Google as a Teaching & Research Tool (Jerz’s Online Resource Room)

This friendly and basic introduction to using Google for routine class prep and research seems to have gone over fairly well. I wish the copier hadn’t jammed between classes, or I would have had handouts. Since the internet is not only a tool that I use but also the subject I teach, I was happy to have the chance to talk about it.

At any rate, I gave this presentation at lunchtime today, to a packed audience of faculty and staff (boy, that food went quickly). I started by asking my colleagues whether their students used Google. Just about everybody’s hand went up. I asked whether they themselves used Google. Again, just about everybody’s hand went up. I then asked whether anybody knew how Google worked. All the hands went down.

I’m sure that some of the people in the audience knew perfectly well how Google works, or at least had a inkling. But they were just playing along so I could have my dramatic little moment. (Thank you!)

One faculty member admitted to never having seen Google’s home page. Plenty of others thanked me on the way out, or e-mailed me to request a copy. So I feel like I’ve been useful today. That’s always a good thing.

And I certainly didn’t mean to sound as if I were picking on librarians! After a year and a half on campus, the other day I had to ask where the fiction shelf was. So there’s plenty I have to learn from librarians.

If you’re a slideshow kind of person, here is the PowerPoint version (93k).