Monday, June 20, 2011

Google Search Part 3: Image Search

I'm guessing that all of you have used Google Images to find pictures thousands of times over already, but I'm wondering how many of you have tried the many options available to narrow down your results. Last week, I blogged about the Advanced Search options and that is where I'd like to start today. Just like when searching for websites, you can refine your terms by related words, exact phrases or by eliminating words that are irrelevant.

On the left-hand side of the results page, there are some quick options that will save you from going into Advanced Search. You can select the size of the image you'd like (I'd always recommend choosing the largest image size you can find), the type of image you're looking for (face, photo, clip art, line drawing), or even the (predominant) color of the picture. For a fun assignment, ask your students to utilize one specific colour theme to create a photo story (Like a 5 Card Flickr story prompt -What is that? Check it out here.).

Getting back to the Advanced Search options, if you are looking for a specific size (possibly part of the assignment) you can specify by aspect ration, common sizes or exact size. Certain programs and web applications will only accept specific file types. In Advanced Search, you are able to refine your search to a number of common file types, such as jpeg, png or bmp. If you only want to search a specific website or you are brave enough to venture out into the Internets without any content filtering, those options are there as well.

Finally, we get to usage rights. As we all know, people automatically have copyright over their own photographs and pictures. As such, we should (but often don't) get permission when we are using copyrighted images from the creator to display said images. The ability to change usage rights is similar to Creative Commons, where people have specified that their pictures and photographs are available to use (albeit at different levels). These levels are fairly self-explanatory, but if you want more information, Google has provided it here. You'll notice that as you refine images to a level where you have full permission to use and edit someone else's work, your results decrease drastically, often leaving you with very little.

For the visually inclined, here is a video explaining Creative Commons.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Google Search Part 2: Advanced Search!

Having covered Operators in the last blog post (see "Google Search Part 1: Operators"), I'll shift my attention to the Advanced Search as it has far greater implications for education. Many of you have probably had a quick look at Advanced Search, but have neglected using it out of fear or simply lack of time. I'd like to show you some options that will help your students become more proficient at searching for various topics. Please follow the example below in a new tab:

1. Let's say your student has chosen to write an essay on the tradition of Maple Syrup in Canada. When you type in "Maple Syrup" (without quotations) there are about 10 million results. While many of these will be relevant, you'll notice websites where people are trying to sell Maple Syrup creep near the top of the list.
2. Click on Advanced Search. You'll notice that maple syrup is already in the field that says "Find web pages that have all of these words." Here is where we can begin to narrow down results. Try adding in the words "Canada" and "history" since we are researching maple syrup in Canada. Now your results are down to 2.9 million. Still we'll find some results from companies selling their syrup.

3. Now we want to remove sites that contain irrelevant content using the field entitled, "but don't show pages that have any of these unwanted words." We can add words like "store," "buy," and "purchase." Now our results are at 1.9 million. You'll notice on the results page there is a minus in front of all of these new words (a shortcut). Let's keep going. Add more words into this field, like "images" and "video" or "United States" and "tourism." Now we're down to 1.5 million results.

4. Let's try some more features of Advanced Search. Change the Language to English. Under "Search within a Site or Domain" add in ".ca" so it searches only Canadian websites. Now we're down to 124 thousand results.

Now, there is a little bit of give and take with this process. Sometimes you'll find that words you've used to narrow down the search have gone too far and have eliminated websites that are relevant. Simply go backwards and take out (or change) a word you've added. This isn't a linear process. For instance, you may want to add in a certain province while removing another. If you are looking for current sites or news articles, try playing with the "date" option at the bottom of advanced search.

Another interesting feature is the "Filetype" field. Clear all of your fields and try searching for "Maple Syrup Canada History" after you change the filetype to Powerpoint and see what comes up. It may change the way you assign presentations in the future...

Next time: Google Search Part 3: Image Search!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Google Search Part 1: Operators!

After a recent Google Workshop for Educators (GWE), I was aghast at how much time I've wasted through inefficient searching. It could have added minutes to my life! All sarcasm aside, you really can save some serious time, and heartache, by making your searches more efficient. We spent the greater part of the morning experimenting efficient searching with a Google certified teacher (@k_shelton).

Here are some of the goodies we had fun trying (try them out for yourself in a new tab right now):

Weather - Type in "Weather Brooks, Alberta"
     - up-to-date weather forecast for any location in the world

Movies - Type in "Movies Calgary, Alberta"
     - current movie showtimes at various theatres

Time - Type in "Time Beijing, China"
     - current time for any location in the world (who needs math?)

Chinese (or any other) Food - Type in "Chinese Food St. John's, Newfoundland"
     - listing of restaurants, ratings and a Google map with locations

Currency Conversion - Type in "100 Canadian Dollars to American Dollars" 
     - current monetary conversion

Flights - Type in "AC 243"
     - track the status of your flight

Calculator - Type in "6 to the power of 2 times 5"
     - an online calculator (try some advanced equations)

Definitions - Type in "define: bailiwick"
     - online instant dictionary (saves paper) with links to your favourite dictionary sites underneath

Here is a current list of all Google Operators (that's what they're called), although there will be new ones constantly added over time. Many of these operators will save you time and a headache, especially if you are on the road or in a hurry.

In terms of educational value, you really want to learn about Advanced Search (to be covered in Part 2) and Image Search (part 3). Stay tuned...