Saturday, December 26, 2009

Helping Children Find What They Need on the Internet

Helping Children Find What They Need on the Internet
New York Times
Stephanie Olsen
Published: December 25, 2009

When Benjamin Feshbach was 11 years old, he was given a brainteaser: Which day would the vice president’s birthday fall on the next year?

Daniel Rosenbaum for The New York Times

To make Web searches easier, Benjamin Feshbach's idea is a Google robot.

Benjamin, now 13, said he typed the question directly into the Google search box, to no avail. He then tried Wikipedia, Yahoo, AOL and, also without success. “Later someone told me it was a multistep question,” said Benjamin, a seventh grader from North Potomac, Md.

“Now it seems quite obvious because I’m older,” he said. “But, eventually, I gave up. I didn’t think the answer was important enough to be on Google.” Benjamin is one of 83 children, ages 7, 9 and 11, who participated in a study on children and keyword searching. Sponsored by Google and developed by the University of Maryland and the Joan Ganz Cooney Center, the research was aimed at discerning the differences between how children and adults search and identify the barriers children face when trying to retrieve information.

Like other children, Benjamin was frustrated by his lack of search skills or, depending on your view, the limits of search engines.

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