In IB Diploma Economics, students have to write four commentaries about economic events that are published in the news. Therefore students are always searching the internet for good sources of articles. Google has always been a pretty reliable tool to search for articles but students seldom use the advanced features to refine their search and to find good articles. Becoming more efficient in using Google is great way to become a more productive student. I will explain three new innovations – Side bars, Timelines and the Wonderwheel.
Posters illustrating many of these ideas are available from Google here: Google Posters
Hint 1: Using the side bar
The side bar is a new Google invention which allows you to filter the search for different types of media. You can search just sites which produce news articles, or only images. This is a first good step to refine your search. I often select my location as the country I am researching . This is useful if I am trying to find and electronic version of something from yesterdays news or to research news from a particular nation.
Hint 2: Using Timeline functions
This is a new tool which allows you analyze how an event evolves overtime. The Timeline button is located towards the bottom of the sidebar. When you search for a specific thing and use the Timeline function, Google will show dates mentioned in the article.
As one simple example, it is nice to look at “Barack Obama” You can see how there were very few pieces of information about Barack Obama in the 2000’s, but by early 2008 and his election in November 2008 there was a huge upsurge in information available.
Another example is below for the the term “currency crisis.” You can see that the term currency crisis can be found in lots of articles. if you want to look at more examples in the years 1990’s you can click on this period to get a more detailed look. This would be a good tool for students doing extended essays to identify previous examples of currency crisis. With some clicking you can identify the blip in 1997 relating to the Asian Financial Crisis. This could be a good parallel to the current economic events.
Hint 3: Using Google Wonderwheel
This third and final hint is perhaps the nicest way to filter and search for articles using Google. If you type in a simple concept such as unemployment, inflation or free trade and then click on WonderWheel from the SideBar you will see a clickable search tool like the image below.
The WonderWheel is like an evolving mindmap. When you click on a new node, it will expand into a new set of subtopics and filter the pages to your selection. If you keep clicking on further nodes you will see the number of available results drop. Eventually you can click on the news button at the left and find a small selection or articles that fit you criteria.
By scrolling to the very bottom of the page, and clicking on alert, you can then easily create a weekly email alert so Google will send you a message when new articles that fit this criteria are published. You can also set up a live feed using this function to your RSS reader.
Why are these tools useful for students?
These types of tools support student’s digital literacy skills. This is education concept where students become more capable of using the internet to synthesize information and to analyze text to develop an understanding. In a digital-age these skills are radically different than a traditional textbook focused classroom. Using search tools to filter the internet for information, is an important skill-set for a 21st century student.