Teaching alternatives ways of searching

18 Jan 2009 by Kim, No Comments »

I was reading a draft of a paper for Bernard about democritizing web searches.  I won’t go into the details of the paper–it’s not published yet.  But, I do want to mention two search tools that I had never heard about before reading this paper, and I’ll give some short quotes from Bernhard on those:

  • Clusty — a search engine that divides results into thematic clusters that users can use to navigate up to 500 results at a time. The cluster list provides a first overview over the search subject and by showing aspects that users were not aware of direct them in new directions.
  • TermCloud Search — a search interface designed to map a topic rather than provide the shortest way between a query and a document. Using the simple tagcloud principle – keywords are shown in different sizes according to relevancy – the goal is to make the user aware of the concepts surrounding her query and to encourage exploration rather than quick answers.

Both of these could be really useful in teaching students about searching because they offer an alternative to Google’s approach of trying to give users the most relevant (meaning most popular) results first.  I think these could alleviate the concern many teachers and librarians have about students who just google everything rather than going into the library and browsing shelves–that they don’t make the same connections or experience the serendipity that can arise from looking around rather than right at the result you want.

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