Why ‘promiscuous clicking’ on Google gets you into deep dodo, fast.

A lesson on “click restraint” with classroom materials. 1/10
You’ve noticed the “Featured Snippets” addition on Google, the box that appears (often at the top) of a query. It’s not an ad, but a product of Google’s algorithm that aims to provide succinct & authoritative info to common queries. 2/10
You’ve watched students search. Rather than scanning the full results, they alight on the prime real estate: the top 2 results. Some studies have result #1 & #2 getting 60% of the clicks; from there it falls dramatically. Beyond page 1? It’s the best place to hide a dead body.
Let’s ask Google a simple question: “Is fracking safe?” Here’s what we get: a “Featured Snippet.” Lo & behold, fracking’s safe! Look, the source even carries a .org—another sign of authority. (Not! If you want to know why, Google me, my coauthor Ziv, and NYT).
Let’s do what @holden calls a 30-second check. Put the name of the group in your browser & add Wikipedia. Wikipedia’s Denver Post entry comes up, which contains the name of the Colorado group. (Find it by using Control-F on a Mac, Command-F on a PC and typing the group’s name).
The Denver Post, Colorado’s biggest and most prestigious paper, did an expose on the group, which, it turns out, was funded by the states’ two largest energy concerns, Anadarko Petroleum and Noble Energy, to the tune of millions of bucks.
Listen, I don’t have a PhD in geothermal energy. But I know that if I want a fair-minded and balanced presentation on this question, I should stay away, in this instance, from the most prominent result Google provides.
I have nothing against Google, I use Chrome, Gmail, Drive, etc. (Full disclosure: they’ve supported some of my team’s research). Their browser’s a modern wonder. But hate to break it to you: it doesn’t have a direct line into God.
And we must teach students to scan the entire search results page (the "SERP") rather than impulsively clicking on the first thing that catches their eye.

For more, check out this video by the incomparable @johngreen
And see these free classroom-ready activities at http://cor.stanford.edu . .
You can follow @samwineburg.
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