Monday, 28 July 2014

Rainforest task using boolean strategies (ETL 501)

"A new and inexperienced geography teacher has arrived in your school and has been given the task of teaching a year 7 class on rainforests as part of the Global Environments Focus Area. List 3 key types of information this teacher might need and suggest a source of information – this does not need to be exact, such as a URL, but more general such as ‘an article on’ or ‘a website about". 

'Young people rely heavily on search engines to access information' (Coombes, 2008, p.33) with their 'information seeking behaviour based on simple keyword searches' (p.37), trusting search engine results and believing those results to be the most relevant and authoritative (p. 37). With a limited exposure to explicit teaching of information seeking skills, students are often 'being left to learn their informatoion-seeking skills on their own through experimentation' (p. 38). 

If we imagine that both the teacher's and students skills fall into the above category, then what can we expect from the above task?

Initially, we could expect that both students and teacher would begin their information search of rainforests with a google search, beginning initially with the simple term 'rainforest'  which brings up this first page of results.  

This first page of results firstly brings ups advertisements, a side panel of images and the top search result is wikipedia. It does bring up a couple of useful and student friendly websites that would be helpful with a generic overview of rainforests and do provide information about the accuracy / authenticity of the information provided. Wikipedia as the top link lends itself to class discussion about it's prominent position versus its accuracy and reliability. 

Teaching both staff and students to use boolean search terms, will enable them to narrow their search to more relevant information. 

For example using boolean search term AND, a more specific search can be made. 
In the search engine Google, Rainforest AND Global Environment AND Issues produced the following results. 
This more specific search did produce 1 million more results, but did provide links through to scholarly articles. 

Adding a further term Rainforest AND Global Environment AND Issues AND kids provides links to more student friendly sites. 

It is interesting to note that whenever you add kids as a boolean search term, the ads disappear from the top of the search list - so a good pointer to use with students for all google searches. 
Also useful to teach both teachers and students is that using a dash - attached to the front of a word will eliminate websites with those terms. 
'rainforests AND teacher resources AND Australia' 
still produced websites from both the USA and UK. However using 
'rainforests AND teacher resources AND Australia -USA -UK' 
produced a list that is Australia focused. 
Also teaching the use of parentheses for combining search terms. 
EG rainforests AND teacher resources AND (Australia OR New Zealand) -USA -UK

Taking the time to teach teachers and students how to use these boolean terms will ensure they can use the Google search engine more efficiently, refine their search strategies and improve their current information searching behaviours (Coombes, p. 34). 


Combes, B. (2009). Generation Y: Are they really digital
natives or more like digital refugees? Synergy, 7(1), 31-40. Retrieved July 2014, from
Google (2014). Google. Retrieved from

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