By Mr Ian Ashman, FE Consultant, Former Principal of Hackney Community College and President of the Association of Colleges
How many teachers have you heard say “Google it” in response to a question from a student or when setting an assignment? Followed quickly by – “oh and, by the way, other search engines are available”. Actually, there is little alternative to using ‘Google’ as a search engine for education.
However, this creates a couple of problems for students, especially in further education. Firstly, avoiding the distractions of a commercially driven search engine takes the utmost resilience – how many of us have gone off down a wormhole of ‘fascinating facts’ or followed an advert for ‘just the thing I’ve been looking for’? Secondly, our students come with a wide range of literacy levels, most below GCSE grade 3, but most material sourced through search engines requires literacy at level 3 and above.
So, students continue to use Google as access to ‘relevant’ information best sourced online, even though it’s not always helpful.
To better support the needs of students and educators, Wizenoze created ‘Web for Classrooms’. This allows searchers to discover relevant and readable content on the internet matched to their reading level. Web for Classrooms has over 6.5 million (and growing) English language web pages from trusted site sources; hand checked by educators for suitability for their curriculum and indexed on a 5-scale reading score. Therefore, it’s the largest safe-for-education collection of publicly available online content. It can help educators to prepare lessons efficiently and supports students to improve their independent research and learning, distraction-free.
Wizenoze with the support of Pearson is proposing to carry out the Web for Classrooms in FE Project. The project will collect data from a comparative study in some pilot colleges to demonstrate the impact of providing a learner access to an alternative search engine that only contains reliable education content that can be filtered by reading level. We are interested to see if it show similar trends to that in their previous research in schools, where students using Web for Classrooms reported an increase in reading confidence and better learning outcomes.
When I was Principal in Hackney, I personally saw the impact that enhancing learning resources made to the success of students in college. I’m continuing to work with a number of Colleges through Pearson’s Further Education Group and keen to see others join in Web for Classrooms pilot. So, I’ve agreed to Chair a Steering Group for the Project.