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Just about a year ago I wrote a post outlining why educators should be at least starting to play with Google+. Since writing that post my use of Google+ has gone through ups and downs for sure. But around April or so I started reading my Google+ stream more frequently and now I head to Google+ before Flipboard on my Nexus 7 and iPad.

For me what has really caused the change is the communities that now exist in Google+. Powerful, though provoking, idea sharing, helpful communities of people learning together. If you want to give Google+ a try or want to give it another go I think findind a few communities you are interested in is a good way to start. So here are links to a couple of my favorite Google+ communities.

Gamification in Education

20% Time in Education

Google Apps in Education

Mindcraft in Education

Technology & Innovation in Education

Google Apps Scripts for Education

Ask a Google Education Guru

This is a great place to start. Join some of these communities that peak your interest then go search for others you might be interested in and see what you find. There’s some good stuff in Google+ for sure and it’s only going to get better.

If you are a blogger and like most bloggers you share your blog posts on Twitter. It might be time to consider sharing them on Google+ as well.

Now I have admitted before that I am a google fan boy. I love Google, I love their products, I love the way they take risks in development, I love the future they are trying to make a reality. So it should be no surprise that on Wednesday I prepared myself for the 3 hour Keynote that kicked off Google I/O Developers Conference this year. The conference has now ended and it is time to write my own reflection on the event and how I think this all relates to education.

Let’s start with the educational announcements:

Facts from the above video:

Google Apps

  • 25 Million educational users all around the world
  • In the US, 74 of the top 100 Universities use Google Apps and 7 of the 8 Ivy League Universities use Google Apps.

Love that they released these figures as just two weeks ago I had an IT Director tell me students still needed to know how to use Word as that was the standard. According to Google itself over 5 million businesses use Google Apps. What this tells me is platform no longer should be the focus. Wordprocessing the skill should be.

It’s Google’s Job to Fix It

Now I understand that this is Google trying to sell a product. But really isn’t that exactly what we hear educational institutions say? If only it was easier, faster and of course cheaper. What I love is Google is taking on those challenges and is continuing to try and knock down the barriers of technology in the classroom. At some point educational institutions will run out of reasons not to fully integrate technology. The only reason that will be left is fear….and fear is no way to run a school.

Google Play Store for Education

Two things here that make this a game changer:

1) The easy of use to volume purchase an app for a school/district or classroom.

2) No syncing of devices or management needed. The next time the device connects to wifi the new app, books or the video is instantly downloaded to the device. This is HUGE and those of you who are in charge of managing iPads in schools know just how huge this is. No need to sync, no need for one computer to manage all the iPads. Just buy and done. WOW!

Of coures this is a direct shot at the iPad. The question I have is, are they too late? No school that has invested in iPads is going to change to Android. Not for a long while anyway so I am left wondering just how much effect this will have. There are some schools that are going with Nexus 7 tablets and for them this is a big announcement for sure. But we’ll have to wait and see if this actually brings new schools to the Android platform.

I will say though that you put a ChromeBook with a Nexus 10 device and you are in a 2 to 1 situation for about $650 per student. That is very very tempting. If I am starting a new school tomorrow I would have to seriously way this against the MacBook Air and iPad combination that is about $1400. There is a huge savings cost there. That along might put Google in the game of education.

Google Search

If you haven’t seen the demonstration of what is coming to the Chrome Browser than you need to watch this. How does this change the classroom?

Honestly this to me was the biggest announcement of the three hour keynote. One of the big things I focus on in all my talks is how search is THE skill of our time. If there is one thing that everyone should know how to do today it is to know how to search. Not “find stuff” but really search the web for meaningful information. What they showed of course is pretty basic but this is just the beginning for sure. This is going to be a game changer.

If I were a 4th grade teacher today (which if I went back into the classroom is where I would go) I would start next school year by buying a ChromeBook setting it up in my classroom and would have it be always open to Chrome. Over the computer would be a sign that says “Ask Me Anything”. We would use the computer throughout the day to answer our questions, to see if we could stump it, to see what information we could “find” and what information did we need to “search” for. How would the classroom change if Google was your teaching partner? How would your teaching change? How does learning change?

google-io-2013Lastly…something that I’m still working through, is over the last two days I have listened to some of the other presentations and more than once developers have been talking about the “On Demand Generation“. That this generation (meaning all of us living right now) are more and more expecting things to happen when we want them to. We want our TV shows when we want to watch them, we want our music when we want to listen, we want our information when we want it, and we want directions now and based on the latest traffic information available. What about weather and my ability last week to know exactly when to quit playing golf for a 30 minute rain delay as the storm passed overhead. We are expecting it as a society and developers are focusing on it. This is what is coming; the ability to get anything we want “On Demand”.

I keep thinking about this and how does this change everything about education? An education system that was built over a hundred years ago on the premise of “Just in Case”? If we can literally learn anything “On Demand” then education has to change. It can not survive a world where there is no “Just in Case”. We need new skills, we need new knowledge. We need to be able to learn, unlearn and relearn quickly and we need to be comfortable always being a beginner.

What are your thoughts? What does school look like if we are preparing an “On Demand Generation” for their future?

Photo Credit: jypsygen via Compfight cc

Now don’t get me wrong, the announcement that Google Reader will no longer be after July 1st came as a shocker….but then again…not really.

We know where Google is headed…everything tied to Google+ and Google+ integration across all apps. Which now that I see that and treat the Google ecosystem that way, well, it turns out it is a pretty nice feature.

But what this means is that apps that don’t “fit” into Google+ are probably on the outs (worried about Google Sites as well…who else uses them besides education?).

So instead of getting all freaked out and sad or nervous, which is the tone of most the e-mails I have received……let’s get excited!

First off Google Reader was not the first RSS Reader. I personally wouldn’t even put it into the “Early Adopter” era of RSS Readers. I had 4 others before I moved to Google Reader. But it is safe to say that Google Reader pretty much became the main RSS Reader of most people. Not because of its ease of use, but rather because it has an open API which allows sites like Feed.ly and Flipboard to connect to it.

Secondly there has been very little innovation in the RSS Reader area for some time. By Google now dumping Reader, it has left a big hole in the middle of the tech world and that is where the excitement comes in. For the first time in a long time, we’re going to see some innovation in the RSS Reader area. There are engineers, companies, and programs I’m sure that are already working on some new solutions for us all. We have until July 1st, so let’s not panic and see what these innovative people come up with. It is going to mean some playing around of new systems but who doesn’t like to geek out a little now and then?

Here are a couple of the things I will be looking for in my next Reader:

  • Web-based with offline support: Much like Google Docs now works and syncs seamlessly online and offline via the Chrome browser, I want this in my next Reader
  • Ability to have one beautiful reading experience on all my devices (iOS and Android). Really enjoying the experience of the Google+ app on all the devices….seems so sleek and fluid
  • Ability to comment right from app: Not sure if this can be done but would love if I could read a blog post and comment right from the app. Even if this functionality was only for the major blogging platforms (WordPress and Blogger) that would be a start and a HUGE benefit to everyone. Don’t even know if this is possible but it would be powerful for sure.
  • Ability to share with social-networks
  • Exit strategy: Have to be able to import/export OPML files like other readers.

What functions would your dream RSS Reader have? It’s time to dream and be innovative.

If you are building a new RSS Reader and are looking for beta testers…..shoot me an e-mail and I’d be happy to be a tester and give feedback. Actually if you need it, I have hundreds of educators you can beta test on over at COETAIL.

I have been thinking a lot about questions lately and Jim Laney’s recent post brought some of my thinking to the forefront.

Essential Questions are the corner stone, in my opinion, to a good inquiry-based classroom. In thinking about this, I went back to one of my favorite books Understanding by Design (I lived by this book when I was in the classroom).

I love this quote about Essential Questions from the book:

The most vital discipline-bound questions open up thinking and possibilities for everyone — novices and experts alike.  They signal that inquiry and open-mindedness are central to expertise, that we must always be learners…  [Essential questions] are those that encourage, hint at, even demand transfer beyond the particular topic in which we first encounter them.  They should therefore recur over the years to promote conceptual connections and curriculum coherence. (108)

Creating good Essential Questions is difficult but so rewarding when you get the right one. In the age of Google where knowlege is so quickly accessible, I think educators could use Google to see just how good their Essential Question is.

Am I asking a question that Google can answer?

Some rights reserved by Tintin44 – Sylvain Masson

If the answer is yes…then maybe the question doesn’t need to be asked or maybe it needs to be expanded to ask the students to do more than simply answer the question.

The idea that Wiggins and McTighe propose above is one I used while teaching 6th grade social studies in Saudi Arabia. Working with my mentor (every teacher should have one) we sat down and came up with an Overarching Essential Question that would drive the whole year’s curriculum. The question was rather simple:

What makes a civilization great?

The curriculum had us studying, what it considered to be, all the great ancient civilizations, Greeks, Romans, Chinese, etc. As we went through the year, we kept coming back to this essential theme. There were essential questions in each unit that tied back to our overarching essential question. The final test for each unit was simple.

Why do you think this civilzation is considered great?

Sure I could have asked them about dates, leaders, ect. But that’s not what matters, even today after teaching the course, I couldn’t answer those simple memorization questions. Instead, I asked one question repeated time and time again as we studied these civilzations. We had other unit specific essential questions that lasted the length of the unit of study. In most cases that essential question had students applying what they were learning from these great civilizations and transfering that knowledge into understanding their own culture, country and political make up (most of my students were Indian, Pakistani and Filipino).

When it came to the final at that end of the year…the question was simple:

What makes a civilization great? Do you consider your own civilization to be a great one? Why or Why Not?

So using my own question I went to Google to see if it would pass the Google test. The results are interesting , if you change “great” to “successful” as Google suggests I can download an essay ready to go. But looking at the resources avalible for a student, there are a lot of opinion sites but not a lot of factual information on what makes a civilization great. Could what makes a civilization successful be different than what makes it great? I think so….and that’s what I would be looking for in the answer as well as the second part of the question, applying what they have learned to their own culture/civilization and seeing if it fits their own definition of great.

To be fair, I taught this unit in 2002-2003. Google wasn’t known by many, connectivity in the country was slow at best, and not many of my students had a computer at home….how far we have come. Yet, I think in the long run, my questions would have passed the Google Test. They asked students to do more than just learn something. They asked them to apply it, to make sense of it, to have an opinion about it. I remember walking around the room with The Thinking Stick (yes…it is a real baseball bat that I carried around) in hand having great debates in class, having deep conversations about how this applied to our own countries and cultures, and coming to better understand each other as individuals and as cultures co-exisiting in Saudi Arabia.

Google test your essential question and see how it holds up.

Some rights reserved by flickr ID: miguelavg

This past week I had the opportunity to spend a day with some of the faculty at Western Washington University talking about reverse instruction…or at least my idea of what that means.

To get started, we did a little reverse instruction of our own where I had them read the connectivism article by George Siemens before I arrived. Once I got there, we then set up the classroom for discussion with collaborative note taking and a back channel chat…both were new concepts to most present.

However, as cool as it was to be talking with faculty at a University, I soon found myself apologizing for the K-12 system and its failure in providing students with the skills they need to be ready for college.

As we were having a great discussion about the connectivism article and what it meant for universities and their classrooms, one faculty member spoke up with this:

I just wish they could find information better. They can’t tell the junk from the good stuff.

….and that’s when I started apologizing for our K-12 system. I find it sad that university professors are not using technology in their classes. They are not trying new things like posing interesting questions and having students research those questions and come to class ready to have deep discussions about them because “they can’t tell the junk from the good stuff”. As soon as this statement was made, heads started nodding around the room and with my own recent rantings on this subject as well….I led them into that discussion.

“I’m sorry the K-12 system has failed your students….they should know how to search by the time they get to college. But seeing that they don’t, until your students come prepared, you are going to have to pick up the slack.”

I then spent 30 minutes teaching university faculty how to search….because guess what……they didn’t know how to either. Which is exactly what I’ve come across with K-12 teachers, which helps to explain the unpreparedness of our students. So who is teaching our teachers the skills they need to teach our students?

Then today as I’m thinking about all of this I stumble across this new research done by the Pew Internet & American Life Project titled: How Teens Do Research In the Digital World

Full disclosure: I haven’t read the whole paper yet but am reading it as I write this. I think this paper should, if nothing else, raise our concerns on just how bad our education system is right now in teaching kids to search or reSEARCH.

Overall, the vast majority of these teachers say a top priority in today’s classrooms should be teaching students how to “judge the quality of online information.” As a result, a significant portion of the teachers surveyed here report spending class time discussing with students how search engines work, how to assess the reliability of the information they find online, and how to improve their search skills. They also spend time constructing assignments that point students toward the best online resources and encourage the use of sources other than search engines. (Highlights by me) (Student_Research p.2)

OK…so these AP teachers (that’s who the survey was done on) say they “spend class time.” We do not know how much, or when they are teaching the skill of search.

Teachers and students alike report that for today’s students, “research” means “Googling.” As a result, some teachers report that for their students “doing research” has shifted from a relatively slow process of intellectual curiosity and discovery to a fast-paced, short-term exercise aimed at locating just enough information to complete an assignment. (Student_Research p.3)

Really? Because I thought this was a given in society as a whole. Even in the age of libraries and encyclopedias, the research that most students I know did was often an “exercise aimed at locating just enough information to complete the assignment”…it just took us a lot longer to locate that information-it did not make it more meaningful. Let’s remember we’re talking about 14-18 year olds here. Everything is about “just enough information to complete an assignment”. If the assignment is not engaging, has no meaning to me, of course I’m going to do the bare minimum. Isn’t that human nature? Now, if the question matters to me, then research becomes deep and meaningful…but there is a sense of Drive here that is not being talked about.

OK, this table appears on page 6:

I’ll stop reading here as I’m tired and this research is frustrating me. It’s telling me things I already know. In fact, I should like it as between this research and my own experiences, I know this is an issue. I would say it should be one of the #1 issues that every school is looking at, and really it isn’t that hard of an issue to fix. Teach search skills, don’t talk about them, don’t think students already know them-teach them. Search is THE most important skill of our time. When I mean Search, I mean all six of these questions above. That’s search or reSEARCH if you want to get technical about it. I understand….the web as we know it has only been around for 18 years or so and Google only 8 years (well…since their IPO and people really knew who they were). In the history of education, that’s small potatoes, I get it. I get that education and educational curriculum are slow moving entities, but we are doing our students a disservice. We are not preparing them for university and we’re not preparing them for the world that awaits. We are failing on both fronts and really there is no reason we should be.

Links you might want to explore:

Start The Year By Teaching Search

K-2 Search Lesson Plan

3-5 Search Lesson Plan

6-8 Search Lesson Plan

9-12 Search Lesson Plan

Google Beta ImageI was excited and then frustrated today. Yesterday I read about the changes Google was making to Gmail. Changes that when I read said to myself “That makes sense, that will work for me”.

Then today I opened my inbox saw the pop-up that said I had gotten the upgrade and clicked continue.

I then went on to struggle figuring out where things were:

  • How do I delete a draft?
  • How do I align something center?
  • Where’d the link button go?
  • Where? What? How do I?

I saw my producitivy today plumit. I felt myself getting frustrated because all of a sudden I was a beginner again.

You have to be comfortable always being a beginner

This is the world we live in. Things change, and change without warning. Yesterday I felt I was a very productive user of Gmail. Today I was a beginner. Today I had to learn, I had to play with a program that I had mastered and start over at being a beginner.

And….I’m OK with that because I realize I’m really never going to master anything again. I’m constantly working towards mastery but as soon as I think I have reached it, things change, progression comes, and I’m back at the beginning. I live in a state of prepetual beta.

I was a master at my Galaxy S III, then I got the latest update and I was a beginner again.

I was a master of OSX 10.6 then 10.7 and now working back to being a master on 10.8 on my Mac Book Air.

I was a master at running, then decided to run barefoot and had to learn to run again.

We, humans, now live in a time that is constantly changing and we need to be comfortable at being a beginner. We need to get to a point where we understand we’ll probably never master a technology again.

I don’t expect everyone to be like me, where I almost crave change, crave something new. I’m crazy like that (hence the changing jobs/countries/schools every 2 to 4 years). I see change as the future and I live for it.

But I know not everyone is that way…but everyone needs to be comfortable with being a beginner and once you allow yourself not to master things but instead learn things, you feel much better about technology and life in general.

So be comfortable being a beginner…that way you are always excited to learn something new.

In this lesson we will focus on the following two ideas:

Set Up: Each student with their own computer or device or as close as possible.
Prime the Pump: When learning to do research not only is it worth your time to do in depth research, but also to find the most current research out there on your subject. From today on, I will not accept websites as resources that are older than 3 years.
  • Domain Extensions and using the site: syntax
  • Narrowing down your search by date
    • As you search for information on Google, Google allows you to set a date range using the menu on the left hand side to refine your search by date. Because information changes so quickly having relevant information that is up to date is a must.
      • Find the date range area “Search Tools” link right under the search box.
      • Create a custom date range from today’s date going back 3 years.
        • You will notice the search results change as you set the date range. Depending on how fast information within your topic is changing you can widen or narrow the dates in which you search. As a rule of thumb, 3 years is a good range for any data you need for research papers in school.
On Their Own: Have students play with both the date range and the site: syntax to see how these two very powerful filters can be used together to get you the results you want. Depending on how much students know, you can also introduce them to the “create a phrase” as well as the AND syntax to combine more than one thought.
Homework: Watch these three videos from the Head of Google Search about advance search techniques to help you be more efficient in your searching.

Searching With Google

Words Matter

Advance Searching


Global Warming Search

From the millions of results we can look at how the Chinese government views global warming. Once I do this search, I might do a search for other countries and their take on global warming. I can then compare and contrast the information that is coming from different countries and what each country is doing, not doing, or what they believe is the cause of global warming.

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Other Search Lesson Plans

6-8 Lesson Plan

3-5 Lesson Plan

K-2 Lesson Plan


In this lesson we will be teaching about domain extensions and the Google Search Syntax ‘site’: as well as how to turn on reading levels in Google Advance Search. Together this knowledge will allow students to find the relevant information they need while doing research.

Set Up: It is best if each student has their own computer for this lesson, however groups of 2-4 will work as well.
Prime the Pump:There is a lot of information on the Internet today. Do a search for any term and Google will give you back millions of hits. But finding the right information can be tricky. Google is pretty good at giving us the information we want but how do you search through the millions of results to get the information that is right for you without wasting time reading through the wrong web pages.By understanding domain extensions and using Google’s site: search syntax we can quickly get to the information we need.
Who can own a website?

  • What does .com stand for?
  • What about .org?
  • How about .net?
  • Who can own these websites?
    • Answer: Anyone. These along with others are called “open domains” and anyone can own them for about $10-15 for each website. You don’t have to be a certain age, you don’t have to own a business, you just have to be willing to pay.
    • Historical Side Note: When the Internet started nobody thought it would be what it is today. In fact they thought only three entities would use the Internet. Commercial Businesses, Organizations, and Networks. Of course we know today the Internet is much larger than was originally anticipated. Things got ugly when the Internet starting becoming popular and people starting buying .com websites that were not businesses, or .org websites that were not organizations. In the end they all became “open domains” or anyone could own them.
    • Closed Domains: There are a few closed domains on the Internet. Domains that you cannot buy unless you are a specific business or government. The two most well known closed domains are .gov (government) and .edu or .ac (Education or Academic Institution depending on the country). Nobody can buy these domains. .gov domains are reserved for governments and .edu and .ac are reserved for schools. Only governments and schools can have those domains.
    • Country Domains: As the Internet grew people needed to know where the website was located. For example .gov gives you the United States Government but if you want the Chinese government you need .gov.cn. By creating country domains the Internet can be searched for information by country.
  • Why is this useful?
    • When finding information on the Internet it can be useful to know where that information is coming from. For example, if I’m looking up information on Penguins in South Africa and I find a website that has a domain .gov.za I know that this information is coming from the South African Government.
  • Using site:in Google
    • Google has made it easy for us to find information by domain extensions by using a search syntax called site:
    • Try this
      • Open up a tab to Google.com and search for Penguins
        • How many results did you get (somewhere in the 90 million range)
      • Now if we know we want information about Penguins in South Africa we can use site: to bring those results to the top.
        • Do a search for Penguins site:gov.za
          • This is the search for websites containing the word Penguins within the domain gov.za or the government of South Africa.
        • How many search results did you get?
        • Can you narrow down your search further
          • Penguins AND eating site:gov.za
          • How many results now? A lot less than 90 million
  • Turning on Reading Levels in Google Search
    • Now the information you have is written by the government fo rSouth Africa and not all of it is at your reading level. Lucky for us Google can help us see what is at our reading level.
    • Scroll to the bottom of your search results page
    • Click on Advance Search
    • Scroll towards the bottom until you see Reading Levels
    • Change to Intermediate
    • Click Advance Search
    • You will be taken back to your search results page but this time the websites that have a reading level of Intermediate (about a middle school level) will be at the top. Still too hard? Click on Basic (about a 4th grade reading level) and those results (if there are any) come to the top.
  • Searching Education Sites
    • Now that we have reading levels turned on let’s do another search for Penguins.
    • Penguins AND eating site:ac.za
      • These are schools in South Africa that talk about Penguins and, because we have the reading level turned on, web sites at our reading level come to the top.
On Their Own:

  • Can you search for information about the following using site: and search .edu or .ac and .gov sites?
    • Cats in Egypt
    • Snakes in Thailand
    • Castles in Germany
  • What? You don’t know the domains for those countries? How would you find them? Can you do a search for that?

This is a great lesson to come back to time and time again as you do research projects over the course of the year. I also highly recommend that you create a poster of country level domains to hang in your classroom so that students can use it for guidance when finding information on any subject.

A screenshot of my search results for penguins site:gov.za. Notice that we only have 271 results. That’s a lot less to look through when we add “AND eating” we get somewhere near 27 results even better! Always point out that these results do not show up on the front page of our original Google search for just Penguins.

At the bottom of a search results page you’ll find the Advanced search button

Once you have clicked on Advanced search you can scroll to the bottom and find the reading level setting where you can change it to your desired reading leave. Have students play with this until they find the reading level they need.

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3-5 Lesson Plan

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In this lesson we will be focusing on learning if you can trust a website based on its looks.

We will use the great fake site thedogisland.com. Students in this age love this site and easily get sucked in to all the great pictures and writing about how great this island is for dogs. A fun place to start the conversation on authenticating your resources.

Extension: If you really want to mess with your kids you can have them search Google for Dog Island. Now the website talks about a fictional island for dogs but in reality there is an island named Dog Island off the coast of Florida in the United States. But it’s just a small island and no….you can’t drop off your dog there to vacation. So if you want to take this lesson a step further you have this in your back pocket. 🙂

Set Up: Students can all be on their own device or in groups of 2 or 3. Groups might actually be better as you can give students time to talk to each other. I will use the phrase “turn and talk”to indicate time when students should be in discussion with each other. 
Prime The Pump: Put on your acting hat as we’re going to sell students on the fact that you found this great website called “Dog Island” the other day while looking for information on the web. It’s an amazing web site about an island just for dogs where they can go on vacation and live happily (if you have a dog you can sell it even more that way!). Tell the students that this island sounds fantastic but you’re really not sure about it and you want them to help you find out more information about the island. You can give them the URL and give them some time to explore the site on their own and turn and talk to each other about the website.
How do we know if we can trust a site?

  • There are a couple of key pieces of information that will help us decide if we can trust a site or not. Each of us needs to make up our minds if we can trust the site, in the end it’s a judgement call on the user’s part. But these key pieces of information can help us.
    • Authority
    • Currency
    • Content/Purpose
    • Audience
    • Structure/Workability

Chris Betcher has a great presentation that outlines these 5 points with questions you can ask students or they can ask themselves when evaluating a website. Apply these five points to the website and allow students to Turn and Talk about what they find.

  • Using the Google linkto:Syntax
    • Google can also help us find out if a website is worth trusting by telling us what other websites on the Internet are linking to the website we are looking at.
      • Have students open up a new tab to Google.com
      • In the search box type: linkto:http://www.thedogisland.com
        • These results show which websits are linking to thedogisland.com
        • Allow students to “Turn and Talk” abou the results
          • What do you notice?
          • Who is linking to this web site:
            • Note: All links to this site are either internal, meaning that the website just constantly links to itself, or there are websites made to tell people that these fake sites exist. Either way it doesn’t take long at this point to realize this site is fake with no outside authentication.
  • How did the author sell this site as real?
    • Have students turn and talk about what aspects of the site make it seem real at first glance. i.e. it looks nice, has great pictures, seems to be “normal”.
    • Have a conversation along the lines of “you can’t judge a book by it’s cover”. These websites are made for you to think they are real. They want you to explore them and what they are really hoping for is that you click on an ad so the author gets paid.
On Their Own:Have students work in teams assigning each team to one of the links below. Give them time to see if they can use what they’ve learned to discover if these websites are real or fake. Have them report back to the class with their findings.Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus(fake)Pacific Tree Frog (real)

The Federal Vampire and Zombie Agency (fake)

Save the Guinea Worm (fake)

Guinea Farm (real)


A look at the search result for the linkto:http://www.thedogisland.com. have a discussion about this page and how using linkto: can help tell us who is linking to a web page.

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Other Search Lesson Plans

K-2 Lesson Plan



In this lesson plan the idea will be to introduce students to Google and the search syntax ‘AND’. It will also begin the discussion about where ads appear on a Google Search result as well as other websites. At this age, every time I show a web page I take a couple minutes to have the students point out where the ads are on the page. This helps them to get a visual representation of how the web page is layed out and where to click and not to click to get to the information they want.

I encourage you to do the searches ahead of time so you are familiar with the results that will show and where the ads will show in the search results.

Set Up: Have students join you on the floor in front of the projected display of Google.comon the wall.Teacher Cheat: Before beginning, especially with younger students I encourage you to go into the Advance Search settings at the bottom of any Google Search results page and turn on Reading Level to “Basic Results”. This way when you start doing your search with students you’ll automatically be getting results that are more at their level.
Prime The Pump:Ask questions to gauge students understanding of Google.

  • How many of you know this website?
  • How many of you have used this website?
  • What is this website used for?
  • How can this website help us?
  • Where do you think we click on this website to begin using it?

The purpose here is to learn how many students have been exposed to Google before and whether they can identify where to click to begin a search.

Our First Search:Choose a topic that you are learning about now or take a topic from the crowd. Animals are always fun to start with, so in this case I’ll be using Penguins.

  • If I wanted to find out what Penguins eat what would I do?
    • Have students give you answers until some suggest typing Penguins into the search box.
  • Next look over the results page as a class.
    • What do you notice about our results?
    • What do you find interesting?
    • What are you wondering about?
  • Ads on Search Results pages
    • Explain to students that companies put ads on web pages the same way they put ads on cartoons and on the big signs along the roads.
      • Why do you think companies use ads? (Have a discussion about ads)
    • Explain that web pages have ads too and that they are not always easy to spot or find.
      • Can you find the ads on this page?
      • How do you know those are ads?
      • What hints does Google give us to tell us those are ads?
      • What do you think we should do now that we know the ads are there?
  • Refining your search
    • After doing the search for Penguins scroll through the page looking at the results and discuss with students that there is a lot of information here on all kinds of penguins and what they do.
      • What do we really want to know about Penguins? (What they eat)
      • Explain to student that by using the word AND we can refine our search for web pages that talk only about Penguins AND what they eat
        • The words “what they” we really do not want so have a discussion with the students about eliminating these words until our search is Penguins AND Eat
        • At this point you should be able to identify a web page that gives you the information you are looking for.

This lesson can be used all year long to help reinforce the idea of “deep searching” and refining a search result. In my primary classroom, this same lesson would be done at least once a week throughout the school year. It could be used to introduce a new unit or topic, it could be used when a student asks a question, or just as a transition activity if a student has had a question they want to know the answer to.

Identifying Ads on a Web Page

This is a critical skill for this age group and in my classroom, I would take a moment every time we were on a web page to “find the ads”. Even great kid sites like National Geographic for Kids are full of ads. Learning where ads are helps us be more productive and in the long run will help keep students focused on the task at hand.

Screenshot of the search results for penguins on my computer. Your search results may differ but take time to talk about different aspects of the search results page. In these results I did not get any ads but I did get the Pittsburgh Penguins hockey team website as well as the game Club Penguin. These are not the results we’re looking for. The last result here might have the information we need but we’ll have to search the entire page to find it. It will be easier to narrow our search from the start.

This is a screenshot of the search Penguins AND eating. Notice we get our answer in three different ways and because I’ve turned on the Reading Level to Basic I know that these results are going to be more age appropriate vs the Wikipedia entry that came up in our first search. You can read about what they eat, you can see what they eat, and you can watch a video about what they eat. Information comes in many forms….another great conversation!

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