In my recent explorations of Google Chrome (the web browser) and all its fun extensions and apps, I discovered A Google A Day. Every day, A Google A Day poses a new question that can be answered by clever use of Google’s search engine. The questions cover a wide range of topics, from math, to science, to history, and several combinations thereof. There is a hint button, tips and tricks, and when you’ve gotten the answer, there is a great explanation provided.
Here’s yesterday’s question:
If the Statue of Liberty (including pedestal) were measured with the unit of length most common in 2650 BCE, how tall would she be?
It’s one question, but requires several pieces of information to solve: the height of the statue, the unit of measure, and some means of converting the units. Because the tool at use here is Google, the question serves to subtly point users to a lesser-utilized function of the search engine: conversion. You can ask Google to convert just about any unit of measurement into any other, and it will do the calculation for you. You may not know that going into the question, but you certainly will once you’ve finished.
The answer, (which includes exact search strings to be entered into the search engine for the best results) is:
Search [measurement from 2650 BCE] and learn that the cubit was the standard unit of measurement. Search [height Statue of Liberty] and find that from the bottom of the pedestal to the top of her torch she measures 305 feet, 1 inch. Compute [ 305 feet 1 inch in cubits ] to get 203 cubits. (Because cubits varied slightly in dimension, your answer could be anywhere from 186-203 cubits.)
The main reason why I love this feature is because the questions tend to force the researcher to utilize a Big 6-style approach to information problem solving. Answering a question requires that you figure out what you’re searching for, create a plan for searching, and then examine your source closely to extract the relevant information.
The questions are not easy, and require quite a bit of critical thinking. This is both a blessing and a curse, since I don’t think that A Google A Day is appropriate for below 6th grade and is challenging for 7th and 8th graders. However, it would be great to work on a question as a class, or in a team of two of three, then come together and discuss what you’ve found and formulate an answer. Even if students can’t find an answer, A Google A Day will spark discussions about the difficulties of the research process, and how to best plan for and navigate the world of search results.
If you’re interested, I’d recommend checking the A Google A Day website, where you’ll find a week’s worth of questions available, to see if there are any questions that you’d like to use with one of your classes.