“Outsourcing your memory”

Interesting findings about our perceptions of what we really know when we have access to the Internet for finding out.

Does Google Help Students Learn (or Just Think They Do?) by Sarah D. Sparks, Education Week (May 26)

There’s no question that in the era of the smartphone, the Internet has become a go-to place to find out something in a hurry, but does “outsourcing your memory” actually help students learn new concepts, or does it just make people think they are smarter than they are?

– people are “outsourcing memory” – they remember where they found it rather than the information itself.
– people after researching a topic assess themselves as being more knowledgeable than they actually are. “While people can find very in-depth information quickly on the Internet, Fisher argues that something about the act of searching online boosts students’ confidence in their understanding. ”
– people remember better when they look something up – but these studies found that students did better online than with print.

State of Google +

Google+ may be a declining star in the Google firmament – Google Drops Google+ Promotion From Gmail, Search & Other Google Services – Martin Beck, Search Engine Land (Jun 1).

Google +, as Beck describes, used to be everywhere, but recently the “integration has been removed, dialed back or de-emphasized”. Google may deny it but …

Postscript June 3 – on the other hand, this examination of changes in the terms of use for Google + suggests that Google is working to better meet user needs in what it will and won’t allow.

Google+ Terms get tougher on harassment, softer on nudity, Violet Blue, ZDNet (May 29)

SEO Periodic Table of Ranking Factors

Danny Sullivan at Search Engine Land has announced a new version of the Periodic Table of SEO Factors (June 1). This is always useful to review as searchers to know the factors that matter for ranking results whether on-the-page or off.

Key in this report are three new factors:

  • Vertical search – meaning that the site must have a variety of resources – images, news, video etc.
  • Direct answers – can be a good thing to be able to provide answers – and construct the page so that Google sees this
  • HTTPS – a secure site using the https protocol

Among the changed factors is structured data – it’s more important to design and designate.

Xmarks Bookmark Addon

Nice description and endorsement in The Scout Report (Vol 21 No 15) of Xmarks for managing and syncing your bookmarks.

Often considered the number one bookmarks add-on on the market, Xmarks is built to be compatible with Firefox, Safari, Google Chrome, and Internet Explorer. The program can be downloaded in seconds. From there readers may begin backing up and synchronizing bookmarks in an intuitive and friendly template. In addition, Xmarks will sync bookmarks across computers, and, if desired, across different web browsers. While Xmarks is free for personal computer use, a premium version ($1 per month) is necessary for readers who want to sync with their iPhones, Blackberries, and Androids. Xmarks is the most popular bookmark sync add-on for a reason: it’s easy to use and convenient. [CNH]

Meeker on Internet Trends

Mary Meeker’s annual report about Internet trends always has analysts agog. This year’s show is 197 slides long. Better to use a summary – such as Tech Crunch’s posting: The Most Important Insights From Mary Meeker’s 2015 Internet Trends Report  – only 24 slides.

Of interest:

  • Top Internet companies are: Apple, Google, Alibaba, Facebook, and Amazon.
  • Next areas of opportunity for entrepreneurs with new products are education, healthcare, government.
  • Average American adult spends 5.6 hours a day on the Internet – mostly mobile.
  • “Vertical video ads”  is the term for ads shown on mobile devices – turns out people watch them.
  • Six of the top ten apps on mobile devices are for messaging. (oh oh – means companies will tack on ecommerce etc)

Learning about a topic area

Dan Russell provides strategies and tactics of what to do when “you need to learn about a topic area very quickly”. Start with thinking about the “domain” of interest – subject area / topic, and “frame” your question – you don’t want to know everything about the topic. He reminds readers that a librarian can help in shaping the question and in selecting resources – to which I add, you may be able to get that advice through online chat with your public library. But, you can also interview yourself – and his worked examples show the type of scans you can do of online resources.

To these I would add tools that can help in clarifying the question (disambiguate). Today, Duckduckgo is the main search engine that can help with pointing out aspects of topics.

Subject directories used to be excellent tools but today are either closed or poorly maintained. But it can still be beneficial to browse the subject tree – such as at the Toronto Virtual Library, or (dare I say), Open Directory Project for its categories.