Saturday, October 10, 2009

Graphical/Clustering Searches for LO/OER Information

Every now and then I like to do graphical searches related to Learning Objects and Open Educational Resources because I find that these searches sometimes yield different frameworks for understanding the information and sites that emerge than I get from my regular reading of rss feeds and blog entries. Recently I tried the new WikiMindMap and was pleased to see that the entry for "Learning Objects" is very good; the entry in Wikipedia for "Open Educational Resources" is a bit sparse, but not bad for starters. If you try "OER" alone as the search term you'll get not only Open Educational Resources but Oregon Electric Railway, Odaku Electric Railway, Offense Efficiency Rating, and Oxygen Efficiency Ratio.

Getting outside Wikipedia. I used my favorite graphical search engine, Kartoo. The Kartoo search for "Open Educational Searches" put the fairly new OER Commons right at the center of the display which I thought was accurate and timely.

A colleague, Dr. Russ Poulin from WCET, recently recommended the clustering search engine Clusty, so I tried it for both "Open Educational Resources" and "Learning Objects." Ten times as many results were returned for the second search term than for the first, indicating (I suppose) that Learning Objects have been discussed longer in the professional literature than Open Educational Resources. I liked the way Clusty ordered and outlined the results.

Finally, I did a search in Google for "Graphical Search Engines" and discovered a kind of meta search engine tool called, appropriately, the Graphical Search Engine Comparison Tool from SEO Tools. This handy tool permits the user to select two from among five popular search engines (Google, Yahoo, MSN, Vista, and AlltheWeb) and then enter search terms for the two different search engines (e.g., Google and Yahoo) to compare their results. The resulting display shows which links are at the top, middle, and bottom of one search vs the other and what percentage of the sites overlap in the searches (in this example, 46% for "Learning Objects," 36% for "Open Educational Resources"). Using this tool will convince searchers how important it is to NOT rely on a single search engine. Highly recommended. ____JH


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