In a recent meeting with the executive council of our student association, one of our class representatives suggested organizing a canoe trip. Judging by the puzzled looks around the boardroom table, many students did not recognize this word. So, I pulled up Google Images and did a search for canoe. The results were similar to what you see above. Instantly, students could understand the word and the discussion could continue.
I really enjoy the challenge of working with a group of students with a wide range of ability. Using Google Image search is a good way to help level the playing field so that students can communicate with each other more efficiently. If you have a projector and internet access in your classroom, images can be pulled up very quickly as a teaching aid.
A word of caution, though. Be sure to set the Safe Search setting to “Use strict filtering” if you are doing a search in front of a whole class in order to reduce the chance of objectionable images appearing. And be aware that even strict filtering is not 100% perfect. So, if you are working with a group that is young or particularly sensitive to certain images, be ready to hit the back button immediately or, better yet, mute the image on the projector until the search comes up, preview the images, and then make the projection available to the class.
Once you begin using it, Google Image search is the kind of simple tool that you will wonder how you lived without. While there are certainly benefits to having students define unknown terminology for each other, there are also times when you just want to provide a few words to define a term and move on. In these cases, an image search is worth a thousand words.