Saturday, September 5, 2009

What to do about Bing

The search overload commercials are entertaining AND on point to say the least. The name sounds like a preppy frat boy name, an iconic singer or the sound that rain makes as it splatters down on a metal roof. Compelling name, or not, it’s here, that new ‘decision engine’ that has been launched by Microsoft. A search engine called Bing.

Bing.com has been around now for a couple of months, and truly has not had much of an impact on me personally. I’ve viewed it, used it intermittently, but not much about the application has knocked my socks off or changed the way I search for information. Quite frankly, with a well built PLN (Personal Learning Network) and access to a wealth of well searched links through del.icio.us, I’ve found myself using Google less and less, so what use do I have for another search engine?

The element that sets Bing apart is ‘that picture’. My son eagerly logs on to Bing each day JUST to see ‘that picture’. The images they’ve presented have been stunning. From Cambodian Shadow puppets to Giant Pandas to Pyramids in Sudan, the images expose us to landmarks, creatures, traditions and other amazing sights from around the world. But the pictures are more than just a picture, they are informative and interactive. As you hover your mouse around different sections of the photos, Bing has embedded links to factual information about the pictures. Links that direct you sites related to the images.

As an educator I think I’ve decided what to do about this new tool that has been provided to me. I teach Social Studies to Grade 6 students. Living in a rather enclosed suburban community, one of the challenges we face is exposing students to the large multicultural world that exists outside of their small community. Bing seems to be a terrific step in that direction. Presenting an image from Bing on a regular basis in the classroom, and sharing with students the facts associated with those photos would be a great way to expand their world. Whether I encourage them to explore it independently and provide them with an essential question to research, or simply expose them to the site and image routinely I believe it has value as an educational tool.

Above all else, Microsoft gave it a memorable name. Hopefully that sound, ‘Bing’ will be the sound of new information, new connections and a new world awareness that occurs in my students as they explore this new resource on their own.