George Lucas Educational Foundation
Technology Integration

Information Literacy

July 2, 2010

How many times have you encountered this response: I typed it into Google, and really couldn't find anything.


How is this possible? We live in the information age; the age in which information is literally at our fingertips. My mother just came in the kitchen. She was asking me about making poor man's lobster. I asked her what exactly that is.

"Let me find the card with the recipe on it"

Meanwhile I type in "types of poor man's lobster" and find exactly what I am looking for. I find that you can make this recipe with Monkfish, Haddock, and Halibut. Wow. I had no idea. My mom eventually found her recipe card and she was now privy to new information that she did not know a few minutes ago. I was able to filter through the rubbish. If I simply type in poor man's lobster, I might arrive at a Wikipedia hit that only gives me a Monkfish recipe. However, Monkfish is much more expensive than Haddock and Halibut, therefore, knowing how to search can not only expedite your research, but save you money in the kitchen.

Smart Searching with Google

My next question is how do we take the above example and transition it into the classroom? Where does this apply? It is happening every day in project-based learning and various research projects throughout the classrooms of America and abroad. Google has transformed our ability to find information, but it is also given us a variety of ways to filter information far beyond our search criteria.

Let's look at a simple student project involving the novel The Kite Runner and a research question that I gave my students:

What effect does the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan have on family and traditions in Afghani culture?

I wanted my students to use Google, however, I wanted them to use it effectively and efficiently. I could have demonstrated another lesson in developing precise search criteria, however, I decided to delve deeper into the world of Google search options.

This idea came from one of my favorite librarians, Dr. Joyce Valenza. I cannot even utter the phrase "Information Literacy" without evoking her name and her expertise. She was presenting Google Search options at edcamp Philly this past May and suggested many different ways in which teachers and students could work together and make Google more effective for all involved. Her fundamental message was that students need to filter down beyond a typical Google search results and find quality information efficiently. Here is how I prompted them.

Adding Context with Google Timeline

I presented the prompt listed above and told them to begin their search on Google Timeline. This filter allowed my students to trace a specific time period - Soviet occupation of Afghanistan - and filter down credible news articles during this particular period (1979-1989). Students could filter even further and find weekly and daily news articles from various news outlets during this time period. Once students had their articles in hand they could begin reading them or even print them out. Students were now engaged with a historical time period and able to take credible news and information that relates directly to their research question and compare it directly to the reading.

My results were a success. Students were engaged with the news articles and very impressed to see actual, scanned news papers from another time. It brought the reading to life and allowed them to see a real life account of the novel they were reading. After this lesson, I found my students using Google Timeline in other classes and they were able to hear questions outside of my class and apply a skill, a search tool to that question. This is learning. This is information literacy. It is our responsibility as educators to educate students not only on the content but how to filter the content and get to the heart of the question. When we teach students how to seek information correctly and efficiently, we create learning opportunities for life.

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  • Technology Integration
  • 6-8 Middle School
  • 9-12 High School

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