Searching – some ideas

Google sets

http://labs.google.com/sets

This is one of Google little experimental mini website. You are invited to enter up to 5 related words then the Google software will try and predict what other words belong in the set.

This is great for simple vocabulary building activities for example:
· enter a few words and get an instant vocabulary list
· predict the words that Google will produce
· groups compete to see who can produce the biggest list – one group uses Google while another uses more conventional methods, dictionaries etc.

Google calculator

http://www.google.com

Google can be used to make calculations or conversions.

Try entering these into the usual Google search box:
· 45.67 x 45
· 1956778 take away 4589
· 45 over 2
· 100f in c
· 789 miles in km
· 1 nautical mile in miles
· 1 uk pint in litres
· 799.99 us dollars in euros
and so on and so on . . .

This is all great for practising numbers as well as the obvious practical application of answering factual questions.

Google facts

http://www.google.com

As well as doing calculations, Google will pull certain types of information directly from website depending on how you phrase the search criteria.

This works very well with country information. Let’s take Azerbaijan as an example. Try these queries:
· capital azerbaijan
· population azerbaijan
· area azerbaijan
· president azerbaijan
· gdp azerbaijan
· currency azerbaijan
· language azerbaijan
· oil production azerbaijan

Roll Your Own Search Engine

http://rollyo.com

This is a free service that allows you to create your own search engine which limits searches to up to 25 websites specified by you.

You can save these custom search engines and use them with learners or colleagues.

These are two that I made.

“What’s in the news”
http://rollyo.com/search.html?sid=9051&f=share&fuid=7257

This searches a limited number of British news websites.
“Rio de Janeiro”
http://rollyo.com/search.html?sid=9053&f=share&fuid=7257

This is for use with an activity from The Internet and Business English (Summertown 2003) called Travel Plans (pages 93-94). Learners have to plan a three-day break in a city of their choice. In fact, many groups choose Rio. In order to speed up their searching for tourist information about the city this search engine helps to set limits. (N.B. However, it still works best if each search contains the words rio de janeiro since some of the websites included are general travel sites.)

This search engine can be easily modified for groups who prefer to take their imaginary break in New York or Mumbai.

Searching for audio/video clips

This is becoming easier and easier.

Try these search engines:
http://audio.search.yahoo.com
http://www.altavista.com/audio
http://video.search.yahoo.com
http://www.altavista.com/video
http://video.google.com/

See below for information about searching the BBC news for audio and video clips.

Using browsers for searching

If you are still using Internet Explorer as your browser it is time to try something different.

Firefox
http://www.mozilla.org/products/firefox/
This is a relatively recent browser that is becoming many regular Web user’s browser of choice. It has many, many benefits over Internet Explorer. However, there are a couple of things that make it useful to the English teacher.

Press F+Ctrl on your keyboard and the Find box appears at the bottom of the window. As you start to type the browser searches the text in the window you have open. If you have opened a page after finding it with a search engine and want to locate the word in question in a mass of text, this is the quickest way.

You can also click on Highlight all and the browser will find the word everywhere it appears on the page. Excellent if you are focussing on a particular item of vocabulary and want to look at in context.

Opera
http://www.opera.com/
Another fine browser with much to recommend it. One unique feature allows you to highlight a word on a webpage then right-click it with your mouse. From the menu that appears, choose Dictionary and Opera will open a definition on a new page complete with computer generated pronunciation. A quick solution for those who do not have a CD-ROM dictionary installed.

Some more up-dated activities from The Internet and Business English

Activity: Bargain Hunting (p. 95)
Use Google’s price comparison search facility Froogle.
http://froogle.google.co.uk/
This speeds up the searching process and give you and your learners more time to practise the language.

Activity: BBC News (p.96-101)
Use the BBC news page’s AUDIO VIDEO search to locate radio or video clips which can be used for short listening comprehension exercises.
http://news.bbc.co.uk

Activity: Investing in the Future (p.135-8)
Enter the stock market code for a company directly into Google to get an instant share price quotation. This avoids having to deal with the increasingly complex NASDAQ website suggested in the book.

Worksheets for the BBC and Investment activity can be downloaded from Summertown’s website: http://www.summertown.co.uk

Google Earth

Visit http://earth.google.com where you can download and install a program that allows you see a visualisation of the world constructed from satellite photographs. You can move around the globe and zoom in and out or search for specific locations.

There are a wide variety of obvious uses for this with language learners. For example as a another tool to use in the Travel Plans exercise mentioned above. It is very simple to use.

NB You do require a broadband connection to use this program.

Download this handout in Word format.

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