I have long recommended fellow educators to check out one of my favorite books, Web Literacy for Educators by Alan November. This book gives passage into the inner workings of search engines and how to fully control them to do your bidding. Before reading this book, I thought I understood how to "search;" but Alan November showed me that I was only scratching the surface. I contend that November's book is a must read for all educators in order to be fully equipped to teach the necessary skills of Internet research to students, and it would serve as an outstanding curriculum guide (equipped with lesson ideas and teaching strategies) for schools.
Many of us (myself included) haven't been taught the proper use of search engines; we've just figured them out as we've used them. But there's so much more beneath even the "Advanced Search" options that Google, for instance, offers, and I find myself still learning new tricks with Google's excellent "A Google A Day" game.
I'm not exactly sure when Google put forth this treasure, but I just found it and am hooked. The game is quite simple in design: you're given a question and need to find the answer. Your efforts are timed, and usually take several layers of searching to arrive at the desired outcome, however, there is of course more than one way to discover the answers. Hints can be given along the way if you get really stuck.
A typical question is illustrated by the one I answered on September 18, 2011:
What bean was so prized by the people of Tenochtitlan that it was used as currency?
It took me 1 minute and 37 seconds to find the answer (but in my defense, I hadn't completely finished my first cup of coffee). When I completed it, "A Google A Day" displayed my path to find the answer (I won't include it here, so I don't ruin your own search). "A Google A Day" is a separate search engine than "regular Google," to ensure the user doesn't find someone else's answer:
To keep the game interesting for everyone, we created Deja Google – A wormhole inspired time machine that searches the Internet as it existed before the game began. Because nobody wants someone's recent blog post about finding an answer spoiling their fun.
Users can go back in time to complete questions on days they missed, and of course, you could repeat the search of any question as many times as you'd like, trying different query approaches.
Along with the game, is the amazing resource, "Tips and Tricks" which includes the link to "Google Inside Search," where users can learn even more about successful searching techniques in the "Features" and "More Help" sections. (There's plenty more to do at the "Google Inside Search" page, such as enjoy and learn the meanings of all the Google Logos that have graced the past Google pages).
"A Google A Day" is an excellent resource for teachers to use with students together or pass on to students for their own independent study. I can imagine classes breaking up into teams to compete against each other, or graphing their best times each day. Each daily answer could also lead to even more research for students.
Students, and teachers, will become "power searchers" in no time with this fun and engaging game.