Teaching Search Engine Literacy with A Google A Day

A Google a Day screenshot

Back in April, Google announced its announced its A Google a Day project as “a new daily puzzle that can be solved using your creativity and clever search skills on Google.” For example, today’s question is “This planet’s slow retrograde rotation results in the universe’s longest day. How many Earth days equal one day here?” I solved this puzzle by first searching for “planet retrograde rotation” and found that Venus and Uranus are the planets that rotate counter to other planet rotations in our solar system. Then I searched for “planet rotation rate” and found a nice table in Wikipedia that showed the rotation periods of major objects in our solar system. A quick peek at the history of that wikipedia page shows that it hasn’t been tampered with recently, so I’m pretty sure the answer is 243 — the number of Earth days it takes Venus to complete one full rotation. And, sure enough, that’s the answer! Each question comes with a brief description of how one can find the answer, so if someone gets stuck they can see hints on how to find the answer. And the questions use Google offerings other than just search; for example, the last Saturday’s question uses Google Translate and the one from July 6th uses Google Maps.

When this first came out I thought it was a stunningly good way to demonstrate the kinds of search skills that libraries teach patrons when demonstrating how to use the internet. So I sent a message to the generic service address and started a conversation with a product marketing manager at Google. After some back-and-forth with him and other librarians, it does seem like there is a possibility of a really neat collaboration. To start us off, Google put together the information below on how to embed the question in library websites (see below). On a conference call with other librarians we also talked about possibilities like a categorization of questions (so if you wanted a chemistry question or one that uses Google Street View you would be able to find it quickly) and “guest written” questions based off of real life reference interviews.

Thursday Threads: Teaching Search, OCLC Research Library Partnership, Shelvar App

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Another week, another set of threads of library and library-related topics. (Who ever said this profession was boring? Well, I once did, but that is a thread for another day.) Information literacy hit the mainstream this week with noted usability analyst Jakob Nielson noting that internet users need to learn better search skills and Google giving us a tool (in the form of a daily puzzle) that might do just that. Next is an announcement from OCLC about a re-energizing and re-forming of the research library partner program. Lastly, a computer scientist at Miami University creates a mobile app that will be a godsend for library shelvers everywhere (perhaps after you relabel your spines).