Now, the teacher said there were two ways my daughter could find out the definitions. One was to use a dictionary. And the second was to “talk to your parents about it.”
What I found telling was that while my daughter has been trained in using a dictionary, she found it entirely cumbersome. Now, I am all for cumbersome, as I find using a dictionary forces all sorts of new learnings (ie, the definition often has words that have to be looked up as well). I have already been through the process of forcing my kids to learn how to use the dictionary, and I sensed a new kind of learning opportunity. So I asked: “Have you tried using Google?”
“Yes,” she replied. “But my teacher said it’s not very good, and we shouldn’t use it.”
“Why?” I asked.
“It doesn’t work very well,” she replied.
“What did you ask it?”
“Well, I dunno, I typed in something like “what is the meaning of polls” she replied.
And true enough, when you type that in, Google fails, particularly for a 5th grader who is not quite “search literate.” Not that most folks who use Google are any more search literate, of course. Most folks don’t use advanced search functions, and certainly that applies to my daughter. (Turns out, Google does do pretty well for “meaning” related searches, but not as well as advanced search…)
“Well, have you tried to use Google’s define function?” I asked her.
Blank stare. (Of course!)
But imagine if our schools taught that function!
The next half hour, we had a great time touring the define: function in google. And I must say, it was a true Learning Moment.
I just wish our schools would learn along with us. It’s time to renew a call for search literacy. In the age of Google, Webster’s is…well, the province of a diminishing class.
Update: Nice furtherance of the meme from Cyrus here.