I recently viewed a TEDx presentation by Google UX researcher, Daniel Russell, titled The Revolution in Asking & Answering Questions. Dan’s talk explores how technology has changed the kinds of questions that we ask, how we ask them, how we can find answers, and the different skills that we need to do so. Modern search engines, such as Google, allow us to find answers to questions that would previously seem impossible to answer.
What first struck me as really interesting is that Dan’s research shows that 90.5% of US-English internet users are unsure of one of the fundamental search tools: Control+F/CMD+F/Edit>Find. He refers to this as the “fundamental online reading skill.” More importantly to educators, Dan has found that 51.1% of US-English teachers are unsure of this skill. If you know how to effectively search and find something, it changes the way you think, the way you ask questions, the types of questions you ask, and how well your questions will be answered. Dan exemplifies this at about 3:20 into the video when he shows the audience race results from an 8K run. Dan goes on to describe how incorrect search skills can lead to incorrect results when searching for something as simple as an individual’s race result. There are many variables that should be taken into account when completing a simple search if your results are to be effective and correct.
Something else that Dan touches on that I found to be really interesting is the idea of Spoof Sites. Dan uses the example of the Tree Octopus, but there are many other Spoof Sites out there. Some other examples are Dog Island, Dehydrated Water, a website dedicated to saving the Guinea Worm, and any number of satirical news sites. Spoof Sites are designed to have a little fun, but also teach a valuable lesson– a lesson on credibility.
In addition, Dan addresses a number of other search skills that are essential to effectively searching the internet. The ability to find answers to previously unanswerable questions raises a series of interesting questions for educators. Are we still asking the right questions? Are we teaching our students the skills they need to succeed in the 21st century? Do we ourselves have, or do we fully understand, these skills?