Tips for Using Search Engines with Your Students

Search refiners from Alta Vista include Bloomberg.com, Slide Share, and Helium.  Slide Share is a website that shares presentations, documents and professional videos on various topics.  The slide shows are extremely interesting and can be bookmarked for later use.  Helium is a knowledge co-operative website where writers also act as editors, reading and rating every article on the site. An advantage to searching on Helium is that articles are rated through peer review which determines whether a writer can be active on the website.  http://searchenginewatch.com/2156221

Different search results may be attributed to the difference between the use of a search engine and a search directory.  Alta Vista contains a full-text index of millions of web pages.  When keywords are entered into the Alta Vista search engine, it checks to see if the words appear on any of the pages it has in an index.  Yahoo, on the other hand, is a giant collection of subject categories with pages organized under it.  The main difference between the Yahoo search engine and the AltaVista directory is the way these websites get entered into their index. People submit their sites to the directories, which are reviewed by human editors.  Directories are collections of Internet sites organized by subject. Search engines work by sending out a spider to obtain as many documents as possible. http://www.articlealley.com/article_297_5.html 

An advantage to using Yahoo is the way it organizes the resources in a hierarchical arrangement, providing a list of general subjects, each subject leading to a list of topics within that subject, each topic leading to sub-topics, and usually to more subtopics. Eventually, you are presented with a list of web pages, each related to the final subtopic that you selected. However, there have been numerous times, when searching for psychology related topics; I have had to weed through irrelevant web pages in order to find the correct information needed.  http://www.globalschoolnet.org/web/research/internet/tool1.htm 

Another advantage of using Yahoo is the wide range of services and products it offers.  It is one of the most established names on the Internet.  The home page is user friendly and provides options such as mail, news, travel, weather and entertainment.  The news section is located on the home page and offers local, state and national headlines.  With Yahoo Mail, you get unlimited email storage, built-in search to quickly find email, and online security.  I receive hundreds of home work assignments from students on a weekly basis so the unlimited email storage is an enormous benefit.  However, the mail has too many advertisements on the page and often causes delays and freezes to the system.

            Alta Vista saves time when searching for images, videos and audio files.  It can be an extremely beneficial tool to use with ESOL students in classroom instruction.  For students who have 504 plans, the Bable Fish option on Alta Vista enables you to make certain classroom accommodations to ensure their learning. Babel Fish, translates words and Web pages into 10 languages, including English, Spanish, French, Italian, German, Swedish, Japanese, Korean, and Russian.  I haven’t found too many disadvantages with Alta Vista.  The vast arrays of images, audio files, videos along with language translation are valuable tools to the classroom teacher.  http://www.articleinput.com/e/a/title/Advantages-and-disadvatages-of-using-toolbars 

     It is sometimes difficult to know if a website is providing accurate information.  Whether the web is being used for work or personal reasons, it is always important to know whether the source has overall integrity, reliability and is appropriate. 
How to Determine Website Credibility | eHow.com http://www.ehow.com/how_2112227_determine-website-credibility.html#ixzz1CYvxo2cg 

Evaluating information found on the Internet is an essential tool to the educator. Many websites are created on an hourly basis and not all of them provide information that is truthful. There are several ways to be sure that information created on the Internet is reliable. The CARS model for evaluating websites helps the user establish the credibility of information provided by a particular website by evaluating the credibility of the source, the accuracy of the source; the reasonableness of the site; and support of documentation.    First, it is important to determine the credibility of the source.  Not all .com and .net sites are as credible as .org, .gov, and .edu.  The author plays a critical role in whether the website is credible as well.  When conducting research, one should make sure that the credentials of the author are trustworthy as an authority on the subject.   For example, is the author a professor at a university or a medical doctor?  Also, another crucial step in identifying credibility is to be sure that the author has provided adequate and authoritative sources. In other words, the website needs to provide evidence that they have done their research. Secondly, it is important to determine the accuracy of the source.  The author must provide facts showing sufficient evidence to support the author's purpose in creating the website. Next, researchers should evaluate reasonableness.  There must be evidence the author is providing impartial statements of the facts and opinions. This means that the author must not have a conflict of interest if the website can be considered a credible source.

Finally, it is crucial to evaluate the supported list of references and citations the author used in researching a topic. Short lists of documentation may not indicate credibility. According to the CARS model, documentation from .com sources does not pass the support test like .gov sources would. http://www.mhhe.com/socscience/english/allwrite3/seyler/ssite/seyler/se03/cars.mhtml

  The information gleaned from using the CARS model is an essential tool to share with students when searching for credible sources on websites.  The scientific attitude of many courses requires critical thinking such as examining assumptions, discerning hidden values, evaluating evidence, and assessing conclusions.  Whether your students are reading a news report, listening to a conversation, or browsing the web, critical thinkers must ask questions such as: “How do they know that?”; What’s this person’s agenda?”; Is the conclusion based on evidence?” and; What alternative explanations are possible?”

(CAE-502, Internet for Educators, Nova Southeastern University)