Finding the needle in the haystack

A post from Bernadette

Successful online readers access information speedily, effectively and efficiently (Leu, Kinzer, Coiro & Cammack, 2004). However, given the sheer volume of information available online, finding relevant information for a task focus can be laborious, rather daunting and somewhat overwhelming and akin to finding a ‘needle in a haystack’.

Two issues warrant attention. The first issue relates to judging the relevance of a search result blurb for your inquiry focus. As Eileen (a struggling reader in 6th grader) noted to me, “The blurb might tell you something but when you go inside it, it’s something different. Don’t get your hopes up if it says what you want to find ’cause it mightn’t always be inside it”.

The second issue relates to remembering ‘aha’ websites. Given the amount of time we all spend online finding your way back to particularly relevant websites, which you have previously visited, can be rather taxing. In this post I will explore two digital tools (Yolink and Diigo) which may help to enhance search functionality.

Yolink ( is an add on browser extension tool that scans web pages, search engine results and digitized books to find your inputted search terms and deliver information that is relevant to your inquiry. Yolink is a supportive digital tool in two ways. Firstly, it enables the reader to dig deeper behind the links without painstakingly navigating to and opening each website link in turn. It does this by previewing and filtering the search results and highlighting snippets of information from relevant sections of search results for the reader. Secondly, Yolink can also search within bodies of texts (e.g. digitized versions of books) for key words or phrases to find information relevant for a particular research focus. Yolink helps you move, as the developers say, ‘from search to find’.

Sample lesson plans and resources are available on the Yolink education site (

For example, the lesson plan for ‘Polar Bears in a Changing Climate’, prepared by Julene Reed, is an example of a Challenge Based Learning unit using Yolink, and is based on the Apple Learning Interchange. Students are assessed on abilities in areas, such as creativity and innovation, communication and collaboration, research and information fluency and critical thinking, problem solving and decision making.

Bookmarking relevant sites by adding them to your favorites tab is one way to collect and retrieve websites that you visit. Creating subfolders with meaningful names is helpful when you want to revisit a particular website. However, if like me, you engage in squirreling behaviors where you tab multiple web sites on an hourly/daily basis you can end up with hundreds of websites in multiple subfolders. Just why you wanted to bookmark a particular website can be lost in the moment of tabbing! It is also difficult to backtrack quickly to a specific website when you want to locate information. So the proverbial haystack looms again!

A digital tool for organizing research online is Diigo or Digest of Internet Information, Groups and Other Stuff. ( ). Diigo is a cloud-based information management tool that enables users to collect, highlight, bookmark, tag, clip, share and annotate websites.

Teachers can create an educator account with Diigo. This will enable you to generate student accounts and establish collaborative research groups within your classroom. Diigo is helpful when conducting research, creating personal learning environments and collaborating with others. Some of the features of this tool which are useful include:

  • Annotating and highlighting snippets of information on websites with sticky notes.
  • Saving a screen shot of a web site on a particular day and revisiting to review changes over time or simply to archive the website.
  • Categorizing relevant information through the use of tags and lists on websites for quick retrieval of information.
  • Creating collaborative groups where teams of students can research information and post their findings and annotations for others in the group to review. Members can then interpret, critique and synthesize information from a variety of online sources.
  • Accessing your own digital library, as part of a personal learning environment, from any computer or through apps on Ipads and Android Tablets or smart phones.
  • Developing professional learning opportunities for teachers through Diigo created educator groups.

Leu, D. J., Kinzer, C. K., Coiro, J., & Cammack, D. (2004). Towards a theory of new literacies emerging from the Internet and other Information and Communication Technologies. In R. B. Ruddell & N. Unrau (Eds.), Theoretical models and processes of reading (5th ed., pp. 1570-1613). DE: International Reading Association.


One Response

  1. Hi Bernadette, I can’t wait to try Yolink!

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