Search this site
Other stuff

All banner artwork by Brady Johnson, college student and (semi-) starving artist.

My latest books:


        Available now

       Available Now

Available now 

My book Machines are the easy part; people are the hard part is now available as a free download at Lulu.

 The Blue Skunk Page on Facebook


EdTech Update




« Scam season | Main | BFTP: Educating sales callers »

Google's Talk to Books - blessing or bane


I am truly excited about sharing this new approach to search!  Imagine if you had the power to ask authors across time and disciplines your most burning questions or for their best advice.  Now you can. Joyce Valenza, Google's new Talk to Books: Semantic search for book and idea discovery

I've been playing around with it [Talk to Books] for a few minutes this morning. While it was interesting on a tech level, I couldn't see a practical use for it at first, but then I got into it and I was reminded of my high school English Lit class. The sample questions provided by Google, and the answers found in the books, remind me of test questions from that class. This could make it a whole lot easier to crib your way through class without learning anything ... Nate Hoffelder, With "Talk to Books", Google Wants to Replace English Lit Professors.

These two blog posts came up in my Feedly list, one right after the other. And they summarize nicely both the positive and negative views and uses of any new technology.

Will Talk to Books be a marvelous resource for us to examine serious questions across time and space and make connections we might no otherwise be able to do?

Or will it be CliffNotes and TermPaperEasy on steroids, allowing students to finish assignments without really grappling with questions they are designed to ask?

My guess? It depends. As I have argued for many years. it depends on the nature of the assignment. For my article Plagiarism-Proofing Assignments Phi Delta Kappan, March 2004, I designed a rubric for evaluating the quality of a research assignment:

A Research Question Rubric

Level One:     My research is about a broad topic. I can complete the assignment by using a general reference source such as an encyclopedia. I have no personal questions about the topic.
Primary example: My research is about an animal.
Secondary example: My research is about the economy of a state.

Level Two:     My research answers a question that helps me narrow the focus of my search. This question may mean that I need to go to various sources to gather enough information to get a reliable answer. The conclusion of the research will ask me to give a supported answer to the question.
Primary example: What methods has my animal developed to help it survive?
Secondary example: What role has manufacturing played in an assigned state’s economic development?

Level Three:     My research answers a question of personal relevance. To answer this question I may need to consult not just secondary sources such as magazines, newspapers, books or the Internet, but use primary sources of information such as original surveys, interviews, or source documents.
Primary example: What animal would be best for my family to adopt as a pet?
Secondary example: How can one best prepare for a career in manufacturing in my area?
Level Four:     My research answers a personal question about the topic, and contains information that may be of use to decision-makers as they make policy or distribute funds. The result of my research is a well supported conclusion that contains a call for action on the part of an organization or government body. There will be a plan to distribute this information.
Primary example: How can our school help stop the growth in unwanted and abandoned animals in our community?
Secondary example: How might high schools change their curricula to meet the needs of students wanting a career in manufacturing in my state?

So yes, Joyce, your excitement is right on. And yes, Nate, so is your concern. Depending on how well the assignment is designed.

Remember the Blue Skunk's First Rule of Homework:




EmailEmail Article to Friend

Reader Comments

There are no comments for this journal entry. To create a new comment, use the form below.

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>