Aotearoa People's Network

I've got the power

by Moata Tamaira

Earlier this year Google launched a free online learning programme called 'Power Searching with Google'. It promised to help you "search smarter" AND you got a nice certificate at the end. I was sold.

Registration was nice and easy (well, it was for me as I already had a Gmail account) and I was promptly emailed a class schedule which detailed how the course would run. Classes 1,2 and 3 would be made available on consecutive days, followed by a mid-class assessment due a few days later. Classes 4,5 and 6 were released over consecutive days starting on the day the mid-class assesment was due and finished with a final assessment due a few days after Class 6.

I could work through the material at a time convenient to me as there were no actual "classes" to attend, though search experts were avaiable at specified times via Google Hangout.

Very informative. Very "doable".

And then I forgot all about it because I don't check my Gmail account very often.


Which is how I ended up cramming Classes 1 through 4 and the mid-class assessment into one chilly July morning and following up on classes 5 and 6 a few days later.

Even despite the fact I didn't do myself any favours with my time management it was still a really useful programme. Like most librarians, I use Google A LOT. And while I like to think that I'm already a bit of an expert, there is always more to learn, especially given that Google keep developing stuff in their "labs".

For instance, I had no idea that you could search for instances of specific images either via URL or by uploading an image you have on your computer. This is excellent for identifying an unfamiliar artwork, or for tracking down the origin of some unsourced photo or image that you might have come across on Facebook or found posted on a blog (always attribute your images, people).

Screenshot of a Google Image search for the APNK logo

Google Image search can also make finding the details of a specific book easier by letting you browsing book covers instead of text. 

Previous to doing 'Power searching with Google' I had never thought to use Google like a calculator, let alone ask it what 35 percent of 215 is.

Another thing I also liked about the course was that it went beyond just pushing Google products, by running you through how to use CTRL+F or F3 to find text on a page. It's tips like this that can vastly improve how effective a searcher you are.

The course itself is very straightforward. For each segment of each class you watch a video featuring Dan Russell, senior research scientist at Google, who explains some aspect of one of Google's tools and you then answer a few questions based on the material before moving on to the next topic. The mid-class assessment is basically just a longer version of this question and answer mechanism that reviews the material in classes 1-3.

You're also encouraged to talk about what you've learned in each class in discussion forums. I mostly didn't take part in these because I was trying to squish most of my learning into one morning, though they did come in handy when I ran into a problem, as other power searchers had experienced the same thing and come up with the answer ahead of me (in this case being late to class was actually an advantage).

Unfortunately, after finishing off Class 6 I rested a little too much on my laurels, completely forgetting about the final assessment. By the time I'd figured out that I needed to do it, I'd missed the cut-off date. So sadly I do not have my certificate.

But it's okay because YOU can learn from my mistakes. 'Power searching with Google' is back later this month and I highly recommend it for library staff members, but also for anybody who wants to be a better, faster Googler.

Google are planning to extend the programme in the coming months to included Advanced Power Searching so if you like what you learn, it seems like there will be further opportunities to buff up those searching skills.

I might not have a certificate but that doesn't mean you can't get one! Or two!

More information about Power Searching with Google

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Powered by National Library of New Zealand