Monday, June 7, 2010

BP, Google and a Timely Search Lesson

So, I often have a hard time convincing students that Google results aren't always the most reliable, due to their algorithm and the effects of popularity, etc.  They understand in theory, but don't really get how it could affect their research.

Well, here's a bit of new for you.  BP has bought up several phrases relating to the oil spill on popular search engines such as Google and Yahoo.  Search for "oil spill," and you get over 34 million hits, but the top one takes you to the BP Gulf of Mexico response site.  Very unbiased, I'm sure.

Now, fortunately it's labeled as a sponsored site, and I know (or hope!) we're all talking to our students about what that means.  Here's a great teachable moment on a highly relevant and current issue.

I know it's the end of the year, but if you are still in school for a few more days or weeks, it would be well worth the time to have your students search for information on the oil spill, and point out the BP result.  Some questions to consider:

1)  What is a sponsored result?  Why would a company such as BP want to spend the money to do this, since the site isn't actually selling anything directly?

2)  What questions should you be asking as you look at the content?  What bias might the information have?  How can you tell?  Can you find any information that takes a negative look at BP on the site?  What information might be left out?

3)  Where can you look for more objective information?  On these objectives sites, is there information that eithercontradicts what you found on the BP site, or gives a more complete look at the situation?

1 comment:

  1. I love this stuff! Thanks for pointing out a great example I can use with my students :)