Google mulls blend of education, search

It's easy to find millions of data points using search services like Google. It's harder to turn that data into knowledge and ideas without educational guidance.

SANTA CLARA, Calif.--Google is thinking about ways to inject search into the educational process as more than just a quick and dirty cheat sheet.

Google Director of Research Peter Norvig Peter Norvig

One of the most amazing things about Internet search is the speed and precision at which it returns answers to specific questions, ideal for students researching subjects for tests or papers. But this also generates criticism that the knowledge gained from services like Google can be a mile wide and an inch deep: data points don't organize themselves into concepts and ideas.

Google's Peter Norvig, director of research at Google, has begun exploring "education search," or ways to help students "get to where they are going," he said. Norvig told attendees at SMX West during a presentation on Google Research that he's trying to understand "how can we support people who are looking for not just an answer in five minutes" but over a longer period of learning.

The project is in the very early stages, and Norvig and a Google representative were unwilling to share much more about the thinking behind its plans.

In January, Google CEO Eric Schmidt told attendees at the World Economic Forum in Davos that he was worried about the "deep reading" ability of younger people who have grown up with the Internet. Instant information gratification provided by PCs and mobile devices "probably has an effect on cognition, probably has an effect on reading," Schmidt said, according to the Associated Press.

Google already offers Google Scholar, but that's really more of the same: a way to search for academic papers and scholarly works related to a single topic. Google is thinking more about curriculum-based research tools, Norvig said, declining to share specific examples.

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