Search Like a Bloodhound on the iPad #ipaded #edchat #engchat

Photo by Kerry Marion on Flickr
A single moment of enlightenment struck me the other day…

As we were reading Huck Finn, we got to the chapter where Jim and Huck leave the wrecked steamboat and continue on.  But Huck could not let the men get away with murder, so Huck jumped aboard a ferry and told a lie to the watchman.  In his lie, Huck says a man (Miss Hooker’s uncle) named Jim Hornback will pay for the ferry.  The ferryboat watchman shows a sudden sense of urgency when Huck gives this name.

One question a student had was, “Who is Jim Hornback? Why did this all of sudden persuade the watchman to turn up river?”

“Great question,” I reply.  “I’m not sure either.  Let’s search it.”  I wasn’t about to spoon feed them or pretend I knew.

I expected them to all of a sudden highlight the name, Search, and do some finding.  But instead, students just highlighted the name, Copied, and jumped over to their Google app.  The minutes began ticking away as students attempted to sift through dozens of hits including someone on Linkdin named Jim Hornback.  There was another one on Facebook, Twitter, and numerous other sites that, of course, did not relate to Huck Finn.  There was even a post on WikiAnswers where someone posed the same question and someone replied…”I think it is Miss Watson’s slave.”

Search like a Bloodhound…

Bloodhounds are known for their keen sense of smell and are used to track down the missing link.  However, they start with very little –  a scrap of evidence, an old article of clothing, anything that may have a scent.

Once they have the scent, they’re off blazing a trail to their destination – one clue from the next.

Google is NOT a Bloodhound…

I use the Bloodhound analogy with my students only because when students have a question, they go straight to and punch it in.  Why?  That’s like giving your bloodhound the scent, taking him to a different location, and then having millions of directions to go in (much like the hits that pop up in Google).  It’s more work, and possibly could result in more confusion..

Track ’em Down, iPad…

On the iPad, you can start at the source.  In the case above, I demonstrated for the students the following:

Digital Literacy

Teaching students how to search within the device of their choice is all about digital literacy.  According to Wikipedia, digital literacy is “the ability to effectively and critically navigate, evaluate and create information using a range of digital technologies.”  Jumping straight to Google and combing through thousands (or less because most students don’t go past the first page of hits) isn’t the most effective way to search.  It’s not linear.  They don’t make connections.  They can’t begin to see how things relate.  And when asked how they arrived at their answer, they simple answer…”I found it on Google.”

Practice Searching Daily…

I now like to do this activity that I call a Blitz Search.  
  1. If a question is posed, I simply say, “Blitz Search,” and I start my watch.  
  2. Students then use the methods I demonstrated above to come to an answer.  
  3. First one who reaches the answer and reflects to the Smartboard (I have the Reflector App for my laptop) gets a piece of bonus candy (food is the greatest motivator for high school students).

Final Thoughts…

It is my goal to teach my students and demonstrate for them more frequently effective searching techniques and how to decipher information to see if it relates to their question.   Inquiries need to be acquired through self-driven searching – NOT handed to them by Google.
Mr. Bormann
English Rocks!

P.S.  How do you teach students to search effectively on the device that you use?

P.S.S.  Are there any Twain scholars out there that can tell us if we are even right about “Jim Hornback”?

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