Today began the second week for my Digital History class, and our first class in the History Department’s Computer Lab. This week we are discussing basic searching on the Internet. Unfortunately, we had a few technical glitches at the start of class that slowed us up. One of the lab’s computers was not connected to an active port and our departmental laptop could not hold a constant wireless connection. Anyway, once we fixed those problems we were able to start class. We also have to deal with the issue of 7 computers in one room and the 8th one in a small room off to one side – this means that I have to stand in the doorway so everyone can hear me, but since the students are all focused on their computer screens it should be ok. (The joys in working in an old building) Anyway, I began the class by talking briefly about web browsers and was surprised that the students had a lot of trouble defining what a web browser is – it seems to be something that everyone uses but doesn’t know how to talk about. The students also had trouble listing different web browsers other than Internet Explorer – Microsoft should be pleased.
We next moved on to searching techniques. At the risk of boring the students to death, I decided to work them through a website I found that walks the reader through various techniques of searching Google, ranging from the basic to the advanced. The site, GoogleGuide.com, is a nifty website – and I have to admit I learned some new things when I visited it. I found it so valuable that I am going to find ways to include it in all of my classes in the future. All of the students said that they learned new searching techniques that they were unfamiliar with, but the real test will be to see if they actually implement them when they conduct research. I gave them a homework assignment that will require them to use these new techniques in an effort to reinforce what they learned, so we will see how it goes.