Saturday, April 23, 2011

Literacy Week: Google Search Stories

When Google launched their Parisian Love ad campaign a few years back, it was such a hit, they created a site for users to "video" their own search story.  While I love being a librarian, I really do miss being in the classroom sometimes, if only because I don't have built-in guinea pigs on which to use all the tech tools I've learned the past several years.  I have to talk a teacher into letting me use his/her students.

Literacy Week was a great opportunity to use the search story tool, as it combined traditional literacy (storytelling), with information literacy (search skills) and technological literacy (the tool itself, or, for more advanced students, screencasting and audio editing software--but more on that later).

Thus, we launched the  Google Search Contest for grades 6-12 (though only the 9-12's actually did it), using it as a fun activity in their English classes.

First, I created a general google account for the students,  assuring their videos would all be in one place and not scattered all over the web!

Then, we showed the students Parisian Love, and this little attempt at humor I put together.

After giving them the handout below, we brainstormed what makes a good Search Story, focusing on
1) a basic plot, with the story told through problems or obstacles the search overcomes
2) a variety of search types
3) a surprise or emotionally satisfying ending

Search Stories

Students came up with a plot for their story, then devised a search strategy that would tell that story.  Many of them struggled with this, especially as second language learners, and once they had an idea of what story they wanted to tell, we questioned them about a) what problems their "protagonist" might face and, b) what they might search for that would help them solve that.

The search story tool itself is very easy to use:

1) Students type in their search question, and click on the box for the type of search they want. They can preview the search to ensure their hits fit the storyline.

Click the "Next" button, then preview and choose the style of music they want.

Hit "Next," and the tool goes to work to create the video.  It's that easy!

Of course, there is not a lot of control over results, and students who want a better soundtrack (as in the wedding bells in Parisian Love), can use an screencasting tool such as Screencast-O-Matic and audio editors such as Garage Band or Myna in the Aviary suite to add audio.  For this, I wouldn't recommend Jing, as it only saves the video as an .flv, which won't allow editing if students want to do that.

Now, it has occurred to me as I write this that, in one sense, Search Story teaches bad searching technique, as it almost requires full sentence or question-style searching, rather then keyword.  Next time I do this, I would certainly mention that to the students.

The students seemed to enjoy the project, as did the teachers, and it only took about two class periods.  One teacher modified the assignment, asking students to choose a character from one of their novels and design a search that character would have carried out.  Pretty cool.    It might also be interesting to use in science classes--student could demonstrate understanding of the Krebs cycle system (something I vaguely remember from 10th grade Biology!), by following a molecule as it travels the steps of the cycle. In fact, most subjects could come up with some sort of modification to suit their topics. 

Anyway, here is the winning video.  Enjoy!

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