This lesson plan is an excerpt from Common Core ELA Technology, a teacher resource book that will be released later this fall. If you reprint, please keep intact, the author, website and copyright notice. You may print for individual use only. For multiple printing, please email for permission darcy at darcypattison dot com.
- Lesson plan for 5-12TH GRADE
- Written by Darcy Pattison, c. 2012
This teaching unit is now available on TeachersPayTeachers.com.
4 full lesson plans
Common Core Anchor Standards
Writing – informative essay, argument essay , or short research project
Reading – all texts have Lexile levels indicated
Speaking & Listening – discussion guides, listening guides for video presentations (TED talks)
13 Student Pages
4 pre-writing activities
2 outlines, with different levels of structure
Vocabulary lists – Tier 2 and Tier 3
Choosing Credible Sources and Facts
Choosing Specific Details
Personalizing Search Engine Results
CCSS LESSON OVERVIEW: Are Search Results Objective?
The Common Core emphasizes student research, including print and digital. Of course, the most common search strategy is to use one of the search engines, usually Google. Just Google it. Right? (Note: This discussion will focus on Google, but the concepts apply to all search engines, and many social media sites.) Google’s increasing reliance on personalized search has been receiving scrutiny for its results, which result in subjective results.
First, let’s state that one major underlying assumption is that students should value objectivity in online searches. Bias of any sort would skew their research reports, as well as any arguments they may want to objectively develop. Of course, you wouldn’t want a search engine that preferenced one political viewpoint over another.
The question becomes this: Is Google search objective? No. Increasingly, it has built-in biases.
Recent studies of the search engine’s strategies of personalizing search throws this into question. Eli Parisier says, “The Internet is showing us what it thinks we want to see, but not necessarily what we need to see.” When a search engine personalizes your results, its algorithms use data collected over time to decide what search results to show this time; it also includes data from your IP address, which includes 57 features, including your geographic locations.
For example, If 10 people across the United States search for information about poodles, they are likely to see search results that highlight pet stores, veterinarians, and discounts on pet supplies for their local area. It seems like a good thing: we only see results for our locale, and in some ways, it is helpful. The problem is that the search engines have no way to allow you to turn this on or off. It is always on.
The situation becomes worse when we move from to ideologies, politics or conceptual searches. If you have liberal or conservative tendencies, the search engines compilations of data means it will start to screen out the opposite point of view. When you click, LIKE or otherwise interact with the data, you often do so on the basis of “confirmation bias,” that is, you are looking for information that confirms your bias. But the more you confirm your bias with interactions the more the search engine personalizes your results until the opposite point of view drops totally from view, leaving you in a “filter bubble” that is anything but objective.
CCSS LESSON OBJECTIVES and ASSESSMENTS
Students will discuss the value of objectivity in internet searches.
Students will experiment with Google search to determine any “filter bubble” bias.
CCSS ELA Anchor Standards
- 1. Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.
- 7. Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words.
- 6. Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and to interact and collaborate with others.
- 8. Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, assess the credibility and accuracy of each source, and integrate the information while avoiding plagiarism.
- 1. Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
- 2. Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively and orally.
- 3. Evaluate a speaker’s point of view, reasoning, and use of evidence and rhetoric.
Speaking and Listening
Important: You must determine your specific objectives based on the Anchor Standards, as expressed at the desired grade level. Decide what products or assignments will be the result of this lesson. For example, students could write an essay or research paper, create a video, or just have a group discussion. Depending on your objectives, set your assessment procedures.
CCSS LESSON INSTRUCTIONAL RESOURCES
TED Talks: Eli Pariser: Beware of online “filter bubbles” (see the video below)
Filmed Mar 2011 • Posted May 2011 • TED2011PROCEDURE
CCSS LESSON: SET UP Lesson
- Set up the discussion by using these questions with the students.
- What does it mean to be objective? To be subjective?
- When you look up information online, do you expect it to be objective or subjective? Where would you expect to find subjective information? Where would you expect to find objective information?
- How do you handle information when you know that it has a subjective bias?
Tier Two vocabulary words: subjective, objective, bias
Tier Three vocabulary words: algorithm
CCSS LESSON: TEACH the Lesson
Watch Eli Parisier’s TED Talks video with the class.
Note: The Speaking/Listening CCSS standards mostly come into play in watching and evaluating the video and in the discussions about the video. Be sure it is easy for every student to see.
If you can’t see this video, click here.
Depending on the internet access of your student’s at home, choose a specific day and time and ask them to do an internet search of three terms. For each term, they should “Print Screen” for the results and bring in the resulting printouts. Display the Search results side by side and make observations about the searches.
Some variables to consider:
- When a person is signed into an account, such as gmail, the data collected on their searches are specific to that person. Repeat the Searches signed into an account and signed out of an account.
- One variable which seems to have the most impact on objective search is the computer’s location. If possible, students could ask family members in other locations (across town, in a different state, in a different country) to participate in the Search on the same day/time and send “Print Screen” images for comparison.
- Does time make a difference in the search results? Repeat the Search a week later or a month later. For example, depending on the search term, the Christmas holiday might make a difference in the results.
Observe and Discuss. Once the screenshots are available, display the results so that students can take time to make observations about similarities and differences about the search results. Discuss these observations. Can the students draw any conclusions? Are they observing a “filter bubble” or not?
Discuss strategies to decrease filter bubbles in your search results. (Ex. Sign out of your Google account.)
CCSS LESSON CLOSURE – Product or assignment
As you decided above, give students their assignment for writing, projects or group work. Some suggested ideas for further reflection are included here.
- Pariser suggests that search engines should make a bigger effort to be objective; they should also allow the user to turn off or turn on personalized searches. Do you agree or not?
- The topic of “filter bubbles” has surfaced in 2011 and continues to be an important concept for discussion. However, the internet changes constantly. Do you think it is important for someone to be vigilant to study the overall performance of search engines and make conclusions about the engine’s objectivity?
- Draw a diagram that clearly explains a “Filter Bubble.” Pariser has one on the video; do you think it’s a good graphic or not? Why? Create something different from his graphic that makes the same point.
Evaluate the students work based on the assignment given and the Anchor Standards (as expressed at the desired grade level) that you focused on.
CCSS LESSON EXTENSION
As time allows, you may want to extend the lesson with some of these activities that gives control of searching and browsing to the students and discussions of what each action will accomplish/not accomplish. They will learn:
- what changes Google may make to a query (http://support.google.com/websearch/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=1734130)
- how to turn off personalization when they use search engines, for example: http://support.google.com/accounts/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=54048
- the difference between context and personalization (this interview is 860L, appropriate 5-12 to read): http://www.stonetemple.com/how-google-does-personalization-with-jack-menzel/
- how to use Incognito mode (or similar modes in other browsers): http://browsers.about.com/od/faq/tp/Incognito-Browsing.htm
- how to use the “Change Location” tool in Google’s left-hand panel to see results from a variety of US locations (note that you can also go to another Google domain, such as google.co.uk, or google.co.ke to get more perspectives).