Unit 5 : Refine the Web

Searching the Web

The topic I chose was American History since this is a Year 10 subject my daughter is studying at present. I decided to narrow my search to the term American Revolution and compared results on four search enginesGoogle, Duck Duck Go, Bing and InstaGrok.

InstaGrok interestingly was “down due to Maintenance” which narrowed my search to 3 search engines.

Google offered much more than the other 2 search engines , particularly with the new addition of the Knowledge Graph which gave a brief summary of the American Revolution with images and offered a site showing the timeline of the Revolution, 10 sites from Wikipedia and access to Liberty, an American documentary mini-series about the Revolution through a very good site  the History Channel. I also narrowed my search to the reading level -Intermediate. Searches related to american revolution also brought up american revolution for kids, movies, causes, quotes,dates and even essays- all which were found to be worthwhile sites after investigation. There was also a good site for teachers with lesson plans.

Duck Duck Go was another  search engine with an easy to read screen but perhaps a bit more limited in its searches. It did offer a timeline, a good definition of the American Revolution and on the side panel suggested searches on Wikipedia, the History Channel, Britannica.com and even a Facebook page along with kidport.com  another useful website which has thousands of web pages that you can surf around by Year Level K-8 and  subject or by reference library subject and topic area . The only drawback and distraction was the advertisements and games that kept popping up during the search on Duck Duck Go.

Bing on the other hand looked a lot like Google with  search tools allowing you to choose the colour and size of your images and was not as busy or distracting as Duck Duck Go. Related searches were good and it also offered the Causes of the American Revolution, Weapons used and the History of the Revolution. Bing also offered similar sites to Duck Duck Go to visit . Overall my first choice of search engine for effectiveness would have to be Google for the depth of their searches.

Evaluating Resources

During the process for searching about the American Revolution I came across The American Revolution website  which I found useful and a valuable resource for anyone teaching American History. The fact it is .org indicated it was a non profit organisation and the home page about its early beginnings was very interesting. The author of the website John Logan became interested in the American Revolution in 2000 after coming across a book in a Borders bookstore in New York. He was meant to be buying his wife a romantic novel for Christmas and after browsing the History section discovered a book John Adams: A Life by John Ferling which he purchased . The story about this second President of the United States enthralled him and gave him the impetus to start building this website in February 2001. After the first 12 months of building the site he then focused on reading every book written on the American Revolution and  let the site stand for years while doing research and visiting historical sites up and down the East coast. One day he did a search under “theamericanrevolution.org” and found thousands of entries which helped him  decide to make a significant investment to update the site’s look  as well as ensuring the existing content that was accurate remained. During 2010 the site was “soft launched”  with the home page, battle page and important people all updated with a clearer and more readable design. The feedback was very positive and he now works with teachers and universities to deliver the content they require to support their lesson plans and Curriculum. The URL’s are kept the same to ensure that the content referred to in a lesson plan doesn’t change and thousands of educational institutions are now  linked to the site which has received over 5 million unique visitors during the last 12 months. Sponsored links are American express along with local advertising. New features being added to the site are virtual tours of history sites and more indexed and searchable documents on the American Civil War and the US War of 1812 with links to Suggested Readings.

I used the CARS Concept to check if the website was credible, accurate, reasonable and had verifiable sources of information. There is plenty of information available about the author who is an authority on the subject, and the information is accurate after checking other sites. He does not appear to have a bias and the site is regularly updated with close links to Educational Institutions. The only drawback I found was a dead link to the videos- but this may have been a software problem on my part as there was a note asking you to install Microsoft Silverlight. After the installation the videos were available.

Tagging blogs

I’ve been tagging my blogs since I started way back in Unit 1 and have since added them as a widget through the tag cloud. I usually don’t choose recommended tags but prefer to go all out and choose Apply all!!

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4 Responses to Unit 5 : Refine the Web

  1. camhock says:

    This is a great analysis of the different search engines- it’s interesting that Duck Duck Go was more distracting than Bing or Google. I think using such a popular term allows for some great analysis, and it would also be interesting to do the same with a much more specific term and see what comes up.
    Thanks also for your outline on the process for evaluating the site. Do you think this would be a valuable process with students?

    • Thanks Cameron for the feedback. I think it would be invaluable to use this process with students whilst also giving them the opportunity to develop critical analytical skills.

  2. Catherine HAINSTOCK says:

    I highly recommend you check out Instagrok when you have the chance. It offers students a visual search experience that may help them understand the search process better. Interesting that you had ads pop up on Duck Duck Go, You may wish to check your computer settings or look into AdBlock if you use Chrome.

    I had a quick look at KidPort.com and noticed it was a custom Google Search site. More and more of these are popping up around the web; there are some real advantages to them and they are fairly simple to set up, Did you have time to explore it?
    All the best,
    Catherine
    (for the PLN team)

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