Saturday, May 26, 2012

Research Bar Improvements



May 15th, 2012: Research bar appears in Docs:
"What's this box?"

I peered at it uncertainly on his small netbook screen, until with a flash, I understood what I was seeing. And then, like the present you didn't know you wanted, but love, I was smitten.

 "That is a research bar." I told him. I understood immediately that Google had combined Search with Docs to make it seamless to search from within your document.

The timing was perfect. My students had just begun a major research project a few days before and they were ready for this tool. We learned how to select words in a doc and search for them, how to link to a result and how to cite it within a few minutes.

I tweeted out about our find. My friend Will Kimbly (@willkimbley) retweeted that with a reply. His follower Wanda Terral (@wteral) picked it up and wrote a great blog post about the features of the research bar.

We've been using it for ten days and love it, but as an educator, and a Google Certified Teacher, I see ways to improve it already.

1. Integrate Google Scholar: The research bar seems to do a basic keyword search just like any other key word search in Google. That works a lot, but not always.  Use case: A student studying the Renaissance highlights the word, hits ctrl-r to research it, but mostly gets hits about hotels.  I predict Google will soon integrate Google Scholar into the results of the research bar, or make that an option users can turn on.
**Added: I should have watched my Google Educast #49 before this post.  Scholar is already an option!  To switch to scholar results click the little grey arrow next to the Google logo in the search bar. That's also how you can access images and quotes too.

2. Use other words in the document to help establish search context: The next most likely improvement Google would make would be to look at the other words on the document to make more accurate search assumptions about what you might be looking for. So that if I typed: "Leonardo Da Vinci, Raphael and Michelangelo were all artists in Renaissance Italy." and then searched Renaissance, I should get results about the art and architecture of Renaissance Italy.


3. Use writing to determine lexile level for results: Okay, this falls into the area of creepy scary, but Google could analyze the lexile level of the written document and then skew search results to provide links with lexile levels slightly higher than what has already been written. Using Advanced Search we can already filter Google results by reading level, so this seems like a viable next step. It should probably be something the user can choose to turn on. This would mean kids from any grade and any achievement level would get results in their zone of proximal development.