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POT Cert Week 6: internet skills and tools – sussing the search algorithms

This week of the POT Cert course sees a move away from the course textbook, for the time being at least, to focus on internet skills and tools. As such, I’ve refreshed my fledgling knowledge of HTML (it’s true – just take a look in the page source code), over hauled my RSS feeds in Google Reader, embedded a video in this blog post, and I’ve also taken the Internet Skills Quiz where I scored 11/12. Yes I confess, I can’t name the device that connects your computer to the internet via cable or DSL (like what’s DSL in the first place??). It’s this aspect of internet skills that’s had me thinking this week, especially as the purpose of this week’s post is to “find a video on YouTube […] that teaches something from your class or that teaches you something about teaching online. [And] embed it in your post and comment on it”.

So here it is, despite the ubiquity of access to videos on YouTube, and the fact that for the 3rd consecutive year YouTube was rated 2nd in the influential Top 100 Tools for Teaching and Learning Survey, I have to say that generally I’ve tended to avoid searching for video content on the platform because I just can’t abide the amount of time it takes to find something of real relevance and quality. Typing search criteria into YouTube is like searching for a needle in a haystack, the eager anticipation when you hit the play button, followed by the disappointment 30 seconds later when you realise you’ve selected a turkey. As a consequence, I recently (very recently) set about the task of getting myself  better able to find relevant quality content within YouTube, which incidentally is more like the kind of Internet skill I’m after.

Usually, I just haphazardly favourite videos that I come across, often in other resources. But the question is, how might I better find these video gems for myself? Well, first off it transpires that Google operates YouTube’s search function, which means that it’s possible to search the site more strategically by using Google’s advanced search operators, but even so, you still need to have an understanding of how Google’s search engine works in order to effectively evaluate the results of your search. For example, Google ranks pages based on a technical algorithm that determines the number of links to a page matching a particular search term, and then again to the number of links that in turn link to those pages. However, because the term that I’m interested in, ‘digital literacies’,  signals different things to different people, results are often still of little relevance, so it’s  here that I need to deploy my own agent-based or social algorithms in order to better evaluate the search results. That is, via social networks make use of people or groups of people to guide me to useful resources and also, based on the demands of the particular circumstance, intelligently apply my own mental processes to the results. Agent-based algorithms take account of multifaceted information and  ‘fuzzy logic’, and social algorithms help form not only relationships with data but also relationships with trusted people.

Consequently, the video that I’ve chosen to embed here is based on such a search. I’ve come across the work of the video’s producer before, and it accords well with my take on digital literacies.

Digital Literacies by Lou McGill

Published inProgramme for Online Teaching

5 Comments

  1. Thanks, Helen, very useful ~ part of why I don’t use YouTube as much as I could/should is just that time-suck black hole. I use Google search a lot (not as happy with it as I used to be) and should have remembered this. Another way to save searching time is by subscribing to accounts whose videos come up regularly on searches ~ best sources. I’ve also created a number of channels on my account for categories I am likely to share and use on different blogs, pages.

    Don’t completely give up on haphazardously favoriting: serendipity can lead you to the best finds…

  2. Hi Helen,
    I completely agree with you on how frustrating it is to find some quality material relevant to your search in YouTube. It is also very time consuming. I think the problem here is the rudimentary search mechanism of YouTube. It basically indexes videos according to tags. A better indexing is possible if information about the contents (obtained by automatic analysis of the video) is also used for indexing. This is a research reality in my field (Artificial Intelligence) waiting to see the light.
    Regards,
    Nacho

    • Hi Nacho, interesting to hear your comments, especially about ‘automatic analysis’ of video content. This sounds like the way to go, if it’s possible. Might be handy to flag up at what point in the video your search criteria actually kicks in, because it’s the uncertainty as to the amount of perseverance required to stick with the video before you gain any value. That’s the issue with videos.

  3. […] Week 6: This week was fun, as under the theme of internet skills and tools, I managed to demonstrate my fledgling knowledge of HTML code and understanding of the three different kinds of algorithms used for handling information: technological, personalised and social. […]

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