Twitter was all…well…atwitter this morning about a widespread Google problem. Everything in the search results had a little proviso stating “this site may harm your computer.” (Oh no! The Internet is broken!)
Google’s headache this morning looks like a great opportunity for teacher librarians. Even after the song-and-dance many of us do touting the value of subscription databases and checking the authority of websites, Google is still the source of first and last resort for many students. It’s so easy, so quick, so sweet… I had some third grade kids in the computer lab who decided to jump away from their approved links and search Google for information on the Ashanti people, because Google just had to be faster than the silly old online encyclopedia. Result: a page of links for the American singer Ashanti, and three kids with a dawning appreciation of the fact that faster does not always equal better.
Google is a superb search engine. However, students need to understand that just because Google admits the existence of a site does not guarantee that site’s authenticity, and furthermore, that the information Google gives about websites–page rankings, security, date, and so on–may be open to question, too. Older students need to learn about the various ways Google and other search engines can be manipulated*, for various malicious, political, or humorous reasons, in order to falsely promote some web pages to a higher place in the results.
When Google was experiencing its little migraine, I amused myself by snapping a screenshot of the results of a search for “google.com.” I’m going to share it with young researchers in my district, to remind them of that old saying so valuable to those seeking information: Question Authority!
*I’m citing a Wikipedia article in a blog post about questioning authority. I am aware of a little irony here, but you know, when I googled “Spamdexing, ” it was, like, the top result…