Oct 25 2009
Google Squared: A Complete Guide
Google Squared is a product of Google Labs. It displays your search results in a grid format. Each item found for your search term populates the rows and their common attributes are shown in the columns. Rather then listing the web pages, your results are organised.
In my opinion it is vital that we don’t just assume that primary school children, who have grown up with “Google” as a verb, can search internet content effectively.
In July last year Google search engineers recorded 1 trillion unique URLs that they indexed, and that was more than a year ago. The amount of information at our pupil’s fingertips is amazing. Sometimes it is too much.
I think Google Squared is a great addition to classroom searching as it provides well needed structure to those search results. It doesn’t just provide a list of sites to click on but a grid of types of information. Google Squared is limited to the types of search terms that can be “Squared” but I think the added structure is a huge benefit to the experience of finding information.
For this post I have produced a series of screenshots and will highlight some of the unique features of searching internet content in this way to help you get the most from Google Squared in the classroom.
(The Flickr slideshow is best viewed in fullscreen)
When a cell isn’t populated with results it provides a great opportunity to explore and teach information validity. We not only need to help children develop their search skills to connect with information, we need to model and teach how to judge the quality of what we see. Just because it is online doesn’t mean it is any good, accurate or indeed useful.
With a regular Google search you will always get results. Using Google Squared often leaves you with gaps in the Square. This is a good thing. These gaps in the search results allow children the opportunity to make decisions about what should be included. We have been using Google Squared during our “Whale Week” and children had to engage much more directly with the information in these gaps, then they would with a regular Google search results.
One example that occurred in class last week was whether a Blue Whale would live for just 10 years or nearly 100 according to the Google Squared results. With some support we were able to see that most of the other values provided for whales were over 50 years and so we were able to define what was most appropriate. Another example was the length of one of the whales, which suggested it was over 100 metres! On closer inspection it showed we found it was referring to the USS Narwhal – a submarine!
Try this search for the wives of Henry VIII and see if you can spot the anomaly. These inaccuracies should be embraced as great opportunities to help illustrate information validity.
Although there is an option to automatically standardise the units of measurement in any given column – the maths that is involved to convert these would be a great activity.
A search for Bridges provides the ideal range of data for such a task. Children could change the Longest Span, Height or Total Length to KM or M. Other good examples include Cruise Ships, Skyscrapers and Super Cars (Super cars results all seem to be in millimetres which is great to do some conversion into centimetres and metres)
Building a Square
For the average classroom I think Google Squared provides a great opportunity to explore and learn about the very act of searching – not just viewing the results. Building a Square of results should be considered a learning outcome in it’s own right.
I think that this would be a great learning activity because of the way the children would have to engage with the validity of the results, the way it can be built from scratch and the choices a child would have to make to refine the accuracy of their work.
Your challenge today is to build me a Google Square showing me as much as you can about 3D Shapes.
More Search Ideas
The Google Search Curriculum provides lots of valuable resources for regular Google searches. It provides basic, intermediate and advanced lessons for three different modules:
- Understanding Search Engines
- Web Search Technique and Strategies
- Google Web Search Features
I believe that Google Squared would be a worthy addition to this “curriculum” because it is not only a search tool, it provides the structure and choice to help children become better at judging the quality of information online. Most importantly it allows children to directly interact with search results as they build their square.
Why not explore some alternative search engines for the classroom in this Interesting Ways to Use resource.
If you haven’t looked at Google Squared before I strongly recommend you take some time to explore it. I hope that some of the ideas and screenshots in this post give you some inspiration to use it with your own classes, let me know how it would be included in your work.