Another dot in the blogosphere?

Posts Tagged ‘search

It has often been said that technology is just a tool. It is not.

We shape our tools and then our tools shape us. -- Marshall McLuhan

I do not have argument with “tool”; I take issue with “just”. Tools are not always neutral because they are designed with intent and function. These are part of the affordances of any technology.

What the layperson might not understand is that while some affordances are designed for and expected, others are negotiated or emergent.

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So when Google released its video on Searches in 2018, it chose to focus on the good and not the bad. This does not mean that it and its users did not do any evil.

We live in an era when we seem to have the unprecedented ability to generate and spread both misinformation and disinformation. Our technologies may have enhanced and enabled these, but we are responsible.

A gun may be designed to fire a projectile, but it is a person who choses a target, takes aim, and fires. Or not.

Likewise, Google Search extends our reach for information far beyond our fingertips and borders. But we can choose to reinforce our walls or burst our bubbles. Which we choose to do also depends on Google’s algorithms.

Google Search is a tool, but not just. The demean the description with “just” is to assumes that our searches are pure queries. They are not. We should not ignore that searches can be biased by algorithms and our mindsets.

There are many reasons one might maintain an edublog. The blog is a place to reflect, a space to exchange ideas, a platform to showcase or promote, etc.

One unexpected benefit of maintaining a blog is finding out who is searching for me. My guess is that these parties are trying to gain insights into what I do and why I do these things. These searches tend to happen when I meet new people.

This is the flip side of an oft cited warning at “cyberwellness” events — what you put online can come back to haunt you. While that can certainly happen, there is much good that happens here too.

Take my open critiques of what I sense and experience about schooling and education. Someone might choose to focus on the negatives, but I also share constructive thoughts on these issues.

Someone might choose to take a sentence or paragraph in isolation. I would rather they evaluate how my perspectives might have evolved over time.

My blog allows others to get to know me and how I operate. I need only worry about how skilled or experienced a reader is at evaluating what is essentially an online portfolio.

But here is a twist: Even as others search for me, I can use the blog dashboard to reverse search for my searchers. I see their search phrases and what they choose to read.

It takes two to tango and we can choose who to dance with, and I see nothing with that.

Last week I read this tweeted question in #asiaED.

I have a simple response for why we use chopsticks. The food is too hot to handle directly with one’s fingers.

This might come across as a mean response. It is not meant to be. It is an honest response and one of many that you might get if you asked that question.

Another interpretation of the question revolves around the invention and adoption of chopsticks in east Asia as a tool for eating. Who thought of it first? What were its origins? Why did other people think this was a good idea? Why make it so difficult to eat? Those are interesting questions and I bet there are interesting answers.

I am not here to answer those questions. I am here to suggest a way to teach teachers and students how to ask questions and seek answers.

Teachers need to get students to refine their questions. A question generated one way can be interpreted another. Where there is no luxury for clarification (like in Twitter), the question must be better phrased. The lesson here is one of better problem definition.

Teachers also need to learn how to teach their students when to search for answers themselves and when to ask someone else. Given a classroom that has peers and connections outside it, it is easy to ask first. There is nothing wrong with that.

However, this question might have been better answered by searching online and in a library first for answers. This would promote learning that is more independent, deeper, and more reflective. With some preliminary answers, better questions can emerge.

It is one thing to talk about higher order thinking skills (HOTs). It is another to design and conduct learning opportunities that promote HOTs. Promoting HOTs is not always intuitive. It takes a humble and reflective teacher to learn to be a learner first. Depending on mindset, doing this might be as easy or as difficult to learn as using chopsticks.

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In 2010, there was a movement of sorts on which three words summed up your passions or focus areas for the year.

It’s one year on so I have four words, but they are not just for me. I think that the four words (search, create, share, curate) are overall patterns on the way we learn online.

Search is practically synonymous with Google. Need to find out something you know nothing about? Google it. I recall how someone asked me about the “throw ratio” of projectors. While I could guess, I decided to Google with my iPhone, triangulate my findings and show the good answers.

If you want something to stick in mind or in place, you need to create one or more artefacts. When I learnt how to “hack” my Wii to run games from a harddisk or access secure wireless on an iOS device, I put the information a wiki. When I learnt about the Green School, I took photos, videos and blogged about it [1] [2] [3] [4] [5]. You need to share what you learn to refine it or to teach it.

What might be a smaller blip on the radar of e-learning is the need to curate. A curator collects, selects, maintains and makes sense of content. Social bookmarking with Diigo is an example of digital curation (and sharing if you wish). Quora is a more recent example and various techie blogs predict this service will explode in 2011.

We might do some or all of these things naturally while learning. We just don’t think about it. But it becomes necessary to rethink these processes as we extend the capacity our minds (and maybe our hearts) with the help of these tools. That way we are not only cognizant of the learning processes but also taking full and proper advantage of the resources at our disposal.

The Chinese, or more specifically the Shanghainese, came out tops in the most recent PISA results. Since then, various media outlets and bloggers have been trying to explain why, comment on the results or find weaknesses in that particular system.

Here’s something from the cynical camp. From my Twitter stream came a link to a China Daily article which vaguely mentioned “A global survey of teenagers worldwide in November ranked Chinese students at the bottom when it comes to applying creativity and imagination.”

I wanted to know who conducted the survey and wanted to interpret the results for myself. This was not because I believe that particular group of Chinese students are the best in the world or that I favour the idea of using just tests to measure the worth of students. Quite the opposite actually, but I wanted to maintain objectivity and come to my own conclusions.

At first I was happy to find this article because it pointed to the International Educational Progress Evaluation Organization as the group behind this survey. But try as I might, I could not find this organization. From the looks of things, neither could someone else (see comment by Patrick Mattimore at this forum).

Just like the leaning tower of Pisa, something just isn’t standing up right about the China Daily article. So my search goes on…

When I read a blog entry titled Your Search Has Never Been Sweeter, I was reminded of how Yahoo! used to index searches back when search was young. The human element was key in deciding if a search return was relevant.

But I think that this form of indexing is a bad idea in the long run. First, it is labour intensive. Second, it creates an unhealthy reliance on the system rather than on oneself.

I can see why Sweet Search wants to do this for younger kids, but in doing so, it provides a crutch that limits how far they might walk. I hope users don’t become dependent on the search tool.

Are there risks to not providing this walking aid? Yes, there are. But you manage those risks; you do not remove them entirely.

Just like why it is a good idea to allow mobile phone use in class or why Facebook needs to be integrated into education. By doing this, you take advantage of what kids are already using, you model or teach how to deal with associated problems, and you benefit from the affordances of the tools/media.

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Dipity is a tool that could be very useful in education. I did a search on A(H1N1) and this is what I got. It’s an interactive timeline comprising of various resources from the WWW!

Dipity helps make temporal and visual sense of searches. This organises the plethora of information that typically results from a Web search and makes it easier to manage. Better still, the information can be reorganised into a list, flipbook or a map to suit the needs of the searcher!

I wonder if Google might acquire Dipity some day…


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