Pulling the Moves with Google

We’ve had a big emphasis these past few weeks on learning how to search effectively, using advanced search options and Boolean search terms. First was a staff session, then working these skills into all of the lessons for years 3 to 6. While asking student to use these skills with their research I was trying to come up with a different way to present these techniques, and found myself doing air quotes whenever I talked about using “quote marks” to keep words together in a search string. From there it was a short step to the left, and then a step the ri-i-i-i-i-ight… (Actually I think my mental soundtrack is a little more Chicken Dance than Time Warp)

My sequence is:

  • Quote marks – the easiest one to do and remember
  • Minus the moustache – for using a minus sign to remove unwanted words
  • Talky talky – make a speaking motion with your hand in front of your mouth; this is for setting the language filter, which is useful when researching international current affairs issues
  • Reading glasses – means set the reading level filter
  • Watch the time – setting a date range

To begin with I ask the whole class to stand up, raise their hands, and copy my actions. I do not tell them what it is or why – much more fun to keep them guessing! We run through the actions until everyone can do the sequence easily, then they do it without me.

Once everyone is seated again I ask them to pull up Google advanced and work out which fields relate to which action. On some pages (depends on which country version and which browser you are using) there will be small font instructions on the right-hand side of the page, describing what each filter does and how to use punctuation to enter that filter into a search string. The students then go ahead and try out the filters to see how that changes their searches. Each year level has its own Inquiry topic, so at the moment we have:

  • Year 3 are researching Space, so we try “black hole” -song -movie
  • Year 4 are researching change, via erosion and life cycles, so we are filtering for place names, specific weather-related causes of erosion, readability and date ranges
  • Year 5 are researching Antarctica, so we have lots of “emperor penguins” -“Happy Feet”
  • Year 6 are researching Asian countries, so we are filtering by language and region

At the end of the lesson everyone has to stand up and perform the actions again, and I have promised a sticker to every person who can do the whole sequence at our next Library lesson, which is a week away.

Great news!

I just discovered that my study buddy from uni days, the wonderful Alinda Sheerman, was named the Australian Teacher Librarian of the Year for 2012! I am so thrilled for her – for as long as I’ve known her she has been passionate, enthusiastic, energetic, creative and dedicated to providing the best possible services for her school community. Providing recognition to those who pursue the highest standards for themselves and those around them is – I think – a sign that we value the work they do.

Personally I want to send Alinda a big hug, raise a glass of bubbles to her, and then interrogate her for a couple of hours on her programs, services, resources, library promotions, lessons, planning processes, and everything else she does in her library and school!

My warmest congratulations to you Alinda, for an award you thoroughly deserve.

Learning 2.012

The theme: Learning, Changing, Leading

I’m looking forward to having some new perspectives, new approaches and new ideas, and maybe rediscover things I have heard of before but have forgotten.

Introductory address:

Life cycles – vision and courage are required – quotes from Helen Keller and Machiavelli, and a question – in the new information economy, who will be in control of education?

“It all comes down to people” – from EARCOS representative

Madeleine Brooks Committee Chair

For educators, by educators, organised virtually, changes/evolves every year

Extended Sessions, Cohorts, Unconference, Presentations

Student from WAB – 21st C Learning in China

* students are digitally wired

* tools everywhere, though some particular constraints in China – but this is a challenge to find alternatives, to really examine what that tool was for or could provide and come up with own solutions

Questions: what’s working, and what isn’t? Those things that aren’t working, why? how can we make them work?


Very amusing skit from Geek Force student tech helpers regarding those among us who still struggle with technology

Great use of icons on the website and for participants’ badges


Twitter works!! yay #Learning2







It is Easter Holidays for us at the moment, so I have been enjoying some quality reading time.

I have read:

  • The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. Re-reading this was interesting – it is certainly a fairly classic tale of a child being saved from awful circumstances and then blossoming into a stronger, better person through making good friends and having a healthy lifestyle. In some ways the writing is very dated and almost parochial – the constant references to the perfection of the Yorkshire countryside and pure air blowing health into the child provoked a smile or two from me. I have lived in some lovely places, none of them Yorkshire – but I have to say that Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong, is not high on my personal list of places to raise healthy, outdoorsy children. However as a mother and as a teacher I can’t help thinking that much of the main tale has a ring of ‘truthiness’ about it – fresh air, exericise and wholesome food are very important for growing children’s bodies, and having something meaningful to do (eg reclaim a neglected garden) does provide a child with goals, a sense of self-worth and also an unselfishness that cannot be taught in any other way.
  • Troll Bridge by Jane Yolen and Adam Stemple. I enjoyed this quick little modern riff on some traditional fairy and folk-tales. This is a Fractured Fairy Tale for an older audience, fast-paced, just detailed enough with taking spelling-it-out-to-you tone, some of the enjoyment relies on your understanding of traditional fairy-tales. Princesses, heroic rescuers, trolls, trickery, rhymes, the power of music to hypnotise the savage beast… I will looking out for other books in this vein by Jane Yolen and Adam Stemple.
  • The Coming of the Whirlpool by Andrew McGahan. I loved this one! A great fantasy read, with elements of Vikings and hints of the naval exploits of England, France and Spain drawn together. The main character is following a fairly classic path of destiny-through-heritage, but in this tale he is destined to be a mighty sailor rather than soldier or slayer of dragons. He is of course part of a subjugated people, but various events bring him first to a harbour village where he learns to sail, then he becomes the first person every to sail into and out of a stupendous whirlpool which of course brings him to the attention of those in power – and not in a good way. The book ends with him sailing off to face those even higher up the chain of power, under the protection of an honourable captain but in company with a number of people who would happily see him dead and done with. Some passages of this book actually made me homesick for the scent and feel of ocean winds on my face and the scratch of sand between my toes.
  • A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby. I picked this up almost idly, and read it pretty much in one day. The tale of four people who meet by accident on a rooftop, each of them planning to kill themselves by jumping off the building. Other than despair or desperation these four have nothing in common – and yet the weird circumstances of their meeting keep pulling them together again as they each seek to evade or exorcise their personal problems. Definitely an adult book in its examination of the bleakest emotions, but no sex or violence. Whilst one character is profane to the point of being almost unintelligible at times, even that becomes a piont of humour when she and the others follow each swear word with an apology. What I particularly enjoyed about this book is the lack of a neat, tidy, happy ending – no-one is magically cured of depression by Twoo Wuv, they all prove that there is no going back in time to fix the past no matter what their situation. What they do show however is that a bit of time, maybe trying something new or taking a new perspective, making tiny differences that can be sustained in their daily lives, can lead them away from the point of utter despair.

So that was some of my reading this holidays – an eclectic mix, but satisfying!

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