[Web4lib] Teaching Search Engine Literacy with A Google A Day

Peter Murray peter.murray at lyrasis.org
Thu Jul 28 15:55:24 EDT 2011

Also posted as a blog entry at http://dltj.org/article/introducing-agad4lib/ and that URL includes links to additional information.

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.

What is A Google a Day?  
A Google a Day is a daily trivia question where searching isn’t just allowed, it’s encouraged. Through daily questions on a diverse array of topics, we delight the curious with exciting new facts. Questions are featured daily on www.agoogleaday.com and above the New York Times crossword puzzle.

Why is it cool?  
A Google a Day is a great new way to discover fascinating information about the world around all while learning how to use the wealth of the web to satisfy one’s curiosity. Moreover, it’s a great way for students and library patrons to build search skills that allow them to better put the power of Google’s search engine to work for them in researching for assignments and discovering untapped avenues for further exploration.

Even more exciting, the Google a Day widget can be embedded right on a library’s home page. With minimal effort and no programming experience required, each day the widget will automatically update so users have instant access to exciting and educational content on the landing page.

Why is it cool for libraries?  
With library budgets being cut, A Google a Day is a free method to build search literacy in a fun and accessible way. We provide the content and deliver it to via our widget every day automatically. This allows visitors the means to explore the fascinating world around them through an educational daily trivia question.

More importantly, every day we highlight awesome and useful search tricks to help find information quicker and easier. Give patrons instant ability to build the increasingly important skills of search engine utilization and internet research by embedding a Google a Day widget or linking to our page at www.agoogleaday.com

How do I get started?  
To install the A Google a Day widget into your site copy/paste the follow information (including the “<” and “>”) to your desired location. You can include this iframe element:

<iframe width="300" height="250" src="http://agoogleaday.com/embed.html" frameborder="0"></iframe>

Peter Murray         Peter.Murray at lyrasis.org        tel:+1-678-235-2955                 
Ass't Director, Technology Services Development   http://dltj.org/about/
LYRASIS   --    Great Libraries. Strong Communities. Innovative Answers.
The Disruptive Library Technology Jester                http://dltj.org/ 
Attrib-Noncomm-Share   http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.5/

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