“Power Searching” with Google

Google, common “frenemy” of academic librarians everywhere, has put together a short online class called Power Searching. The course is designed to teach you how to find good, quality information more quickly and easily while searching Google.  When I first heard about this course, my first thought was “Ah, Google is stealing my job!” After I calmed down a bit, I read over the description for the course and decided to enroll. I wanted to check out our potential competition and I hoped I might be inspired by new ideas and tools to incorporate into my teaching.

The course is divided into six classes and each class is further broken down into short videos. Each class totals approximately 50 minutes of video content. Following each short video there is an optional opportunity to test the skills demonstrated by David Russel, Senior Research Assistant, through an activity or quiz. The course contains a pre, mid, and post class assessment.  After successfully passing both the mid and post class assessments, you receive an official certificate or completion. To supplement the concepts taught in the classes, Google search experts also offer forums and Google Hangouts. When I took the course, it lasted about two weeks and a new class was released every three days or so. The classes could be completed any time prior to the specific due date.

The classes themselves definitely hit on topics that we usually cover in our library workshops, such as choosing good keywords and thinking critically about the source of the information. But for the most most part, it was about more about clicking this and then clicking that…similar to a typical electronic resource demonstration.  I did get bored a few times and skipped some of the activities. Also, I never had the motivation or desire to participate in any of the forums or Hangouts, but that was mainly due to my busy schedule. Despite all of this, I’m not too proud to admit that I also learned a few things–specifically on how to specific operators and how to do an image search.

So, is Google stealing our jobs? No. (At least not right now.) What academic librarians do that Google cannot is work with researchers on the gray, messy stuff like choosing a research topic, determining what types of info are needed, and figuring out the best way to use information. If more first-year and non-traditional students took the initiative to enroll in Google’s Power Searching class, I think it would help me as a librarian to focus more on those gray areas and less on the logistics of doing a simple search. While from a pedagogical stand point I didn’t have any “Aha!” moments, I may incorporate some of their search examples into my future library sessions.

I think it would be awesome of Google collaborated with a college or university library and did this same type of class for effectively using Google Scholar for research. (If you’re reading this, Google–I’m available!)

Have any other librarians taken Google’s Power Searching class? I’d love to hear what you think of the course and its content.

10 thoughts on ““Power Searching” with Google

  1. I took the Power Search class over the summer, in part to learn more about Google search but also to experience a MOOC firsthand. I thought the course was worthwhile, although like you, I didn’t have the time or inclination to participate in the forums (I did watch the hangout sessions and voted on questions to be addressed in them).
    Why did I take the class? Well, over the past year or so, I’ve come to believe that Google is not an enemy or a threat to librarians, but just another search tool that it behooves us to know about. For one thing, whether we like it or not, our students are all using Google. If we can help them become more proficient Google users, everybody wins. Also, the reality is that database and catalog search interfaces are getting more like Google. Ergo, the more the students understand about Google search, the more they understand about the library search tools, and searching in general. In fact, I’m planning to offer a workshop on Google Search sometime in the near future. But like you, I wish the students would take the online class or, better yet, have access to all of the course videos so that they could watch them a la carte. I suggested this in my PowerSearch course evaluation, but I don’t know if the videos have been made publicly available. Do you know?

  2. I have taken the Power Searching course when it was first introduced and I was fairly impressed. It was interactive, you could skip through sections you felt you knew already and either watch the videos or read – whichever fit your learning style.

    I agree with you that there weren’t many moments of epiphany in terms of searching. As a librarian, we’re trained to understand that aspect. What I really took aware were some tricks that I wasn’t aware of regarding the capabilities of Google. I enjoyed learning more about how to the the Google Images search, for example.

    As a librarian in a vocational school setting, I have first hand knowledge that my students need much more remedial help on searching before even getting to the point of using these “power tools” so I feel pretty secure in my job for a while. Will the population catch up to the speed of Google’s (and the search industry in general) search improvements? That’s the big question right now but I’m not so sure.

  3. Jessica–thanks for your comment! I had the same question about “will the population catch up…?” For now, I think that only the highly motivated will take the initiative to learn Google’s search improvements. Many of our students either think that they know it all already or that the way they search satisfies their current info needs…until that research paper or project is due the next day. And with tools like Google changing so rapidly, there will always be more to learn.

  4. Lia, thanks for your comment! I like your idea of offering a workshop on Google Search. I’d be curious to know how that goes. In fact, I’ve been thinking of beginning my library sessions for first-year students with Google since that’s already they’re are using. From there, I could show them our discovery service and discuss the similarities and differences.

    As of now, it doesn’t look like Google will be allowing unrestricted access to the course videos, which is too bad because I was hoping to use one in a class. I can get to them on YouTube from the course site, but it’s under an unlisted URL so I’m worried that they’re going to be taken down soon.

  5. I took the class over the summer becasue I was curious to see what you can do to become a better Google searcher. I could not use the forums because the traffic was too much and I had problems uploading the page and the various posts.
    It was a good experience, although I have to say the I already knew most of the things taught during the class. As librarians we experiment and we love to learn new things. So whenever there is something new on Google we are the first to learn it. And then we share the info.
    So, in terms of content, I expected more. But I was happy about the way the convey the content, easy ans straightforward.
    Unfortunately I think that librarians and instructional technologies only took the class. Not many students. It would be great to have the students take such a class and the focus on the “grey areas” during instructions. But, as you all say, students think they already know it all.

  6. I started in the course over the summer, mainly to see what it was like. I found the videos virtually unwatchable and beyond the limits of my patience. Maybe it’s just me, but I really think there’s no excuse for making people sit and watch someone talk. The content could have been delivered much more efficiently through text and images.
    Still, it would be good to have the course available as open content, so it could be reused and remixed in other classes. There’s always the Google Guide though.

  7. I took the class this summer as well. I also recommended it to the students in my Reference course, and one signed up.

    It was interesting to see how a MOOC works, and also to see what they were teaching. I was pleasantly surprised that I already knew 95% of it, but thought it was a great way for those who don’t already know it to learn it.

    Overall, I think Google is a handy tool – not necessarily an enemy, but a for-profit company providing access to information in exchange for our personal information. (Database vendors, alternately, provide access to information in exchange for our dollars.) It’s something we can use, but we need to be aware of the fact that they don’t exist for the common good, like libraries do.

  8. Thanks for your comment, Paul! I was also somewhat disappointed that the videos weren’t more engaging and a couple times I lost my patience and skipped to the next one. I remember thinking “wow–is this the best Google can do?” And then I felt much better about some of the quick and dirty videos I’ve made.

  9. Like Lia, I took the Power Searching class over the summer. I found it to be a good refresher course on searching skills. The most important thing I learned was about the changes to Google Images. While I had used Google’s image search before, they had changed it since the coursework I had. The pre-search advanced menu was replaced with an after-search sidebar. The class also taught the very useful trick of searching using an image, something I hadn’t known. Despite this, I wish Google still had the option to search for just creative commons images.

    The course would be great for high school students and college freshman at schools that don’t offer a library instruction course or lack adequate staffing. It would also be a good supplement to one-shot instruction classes.

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