"Go online and search your topic for 20 minutes": Leveling up students' browsing strategies and skills

The problem

Every year students surprise me with the way they navigate the internet, or "read online."  Kim Young noticed when she asked 9th grade students to browse the internet for introductory research, 60% of of them didn't show the skills, strategies and behaviors associated with consciously browsing the internet to get an introduction to a topic.

The solution

In the Advanced Innovative Learning Team (AILT),  Kim and I discussed this data point and decided to create a lesson using a deck of cards to scaffold student browsing during the initial research phase of the 9th grade Global Concerns project. Students research three different geographical areas for 20 minutes to get a feel for which one they might want to select for their extended research project.

We opened the lesson by modeling a Google search, paying particular attention scanning article titles, URLs and snippets. Most students click on the first result, and we want them to use the strategy of  scanning and choosing what they read with intention instead of chance.

After we modeled searching, we introduced the browsing decks.  We made multiple decks of cards (this is a beta, so they were simply designed using GGL docs, printed out on colored paper, and cut into cards about half the size of an index card) with about 200 cards each. The students were seated in groups with one large browsing deck to share. We encouraged students to draw from the deck during their 20 minute search period in class, and to try at least five new strategies. If they drew a card that didn't work for them they discarded it and chose another.

The four major themes of the browsing deck 

Search strategies (two card examples follow)

  • Scan the "snippets" under your Google search results to learn more about your topic
  • Scan two pages of Google search results before choosing which result to click on and read

Using different types of sites (two card examples follow)

  • Search social media platform, e.g. find a Facebook group that relates to your topic
  • Search forum like Quora or Reddit 

Browser/search engine strategies (two card examples follow)

  • Try Duck Duck Go browser for results that aren't influenced by the information your browser holds from previous searches
  • Use Google Videos search

Trying specific sites  (two card examples follow)

  • Use a site you know well for a new purpose: i.e. search the "News" section and hashtags in Snapchat to find out more about your topic
  • Search the New York Times and scan the first 50 results before you click on anything

The future: make a "real" deck of cards and share

We plan on collaborating with Cat Ciccolo, another AILT participant, for her graphic design students to design the cards so they are actually nice to look at and quicker to understand. Then, we want get the cards professionally printed with a WEEFC grant. Then, we will make the game available to all teachers in the high school who want to scaffold browsing with their students when they ask their students to "go on the internet and learn about your topic."

Impact outside the classroom

The first place teenagers look for information is the internet. Did you know that the most frequent internet search for teenagers is health related? When students use a variety of skills and strategies to search for information, they exercise critical thinking skills to become better informed and more selective in what they read and believe. 


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