Lesson Summary


This lesson has two main objectives.

The first focuses on search engine algorithms and the impact search engines have on our lives. Search engine page rank algorithms rely on many factors to predict what someone is looking for. The business advantage of appearing on the front page of a Google search is tremendous. However, as more information is tracked about our interests and preferences in order to customize the results of our searches, we have to ask whether or not the loss of privacy is worth the results.

The second objective is to introduce students to creating a visual artifact (knowledge required for performance tasks). Students will research a page ranking subtopic, prepare a one minute speech, and (if possible) create a video to accompany the speech.


  • A presentation guides the discussion of how search engines work, what page rank is, and how results differ for a variety of reasons.
  • Students then do a quick research project to gather information on assigned, related topics
  • Students create a 1-minute speech and presentation on their chosen research topic. If the classroom has the equipment, they will create a video artifact on their topic to share with the class either in the classroom or as homework posted online 


Session One

  1. Warm-Up (5 min) - Journaling on online search methodology
  2. Activity (45 min) - Students discuss page rank and begin research for presentations

Session Two

  1. Warm-up (5 min) - Journaling on search engine data mining and introduce presentation activity 
  2. Activity (35 min) - Create Presentations/Videos on previously researched topics.
  3. Presentation of videos or talks (10 min)
  4. Optional Homework: Have students watch the rest of the videos made and write about what they learned.


Learning Objectives

CSP Objectives

Key Concepts

Students will understand that the page rank algorithm depends on many factors, has changed over time, and has a large impact on the traffic that a site gets.

Students will give examples of how their activity online is tracked and how the knowledge of them is used to taylor the results and the possible repercussions.

Students will create an artifact using screen capture of themselves discussing and analyzing an aspect of searching.

Essential Questions

  • How can computing extend traditional forms of human expression and experience?
  • How can computation be employed to help people process data and information to gain insight and knowledge?
  • What is the Internet, how is it built, and how does it function?

Teacher Resources

Student computer usage for this lesson is: required

In the Lesson Resources folder:

  • "Search Engine Background" NOTE: This document explains the content of each slide in the presentation WITH answers to the questions in the presentation.
  • "PageRank" - slide presentation
  • Handouts for students (can be placed on the student's drives or printed out on paper):
    • "PageRank Student Handout" (optional notes to go along with the PowerPoint - gives students a place to answer questions posed in the presentation)
    • "1 minute talk directions.odt" (to help students organize their video)
    • "Sample 1 minute script on keyword matching"
  • "Sample 1 minute video artifact on keywords.swf" (1:15)

Online Videos:

Sites Used in this Lesson:


Lesson Plan

Warm Up (5 min)

Students should take a few minutes to journal on the following question: 

Which are you more likely to do if you don't see an answer to a search request on the first page: click forward to page 2 of the results or ask the question differently? Why?

(Encourage students to discover that it is very valuable to a business to appear at the top of the search engine rankings and that often thousands or millions of results are returned in a single search.)

Activity (45 min)

Part 1 (25 min) - How Search Engines Work

(Use the PageRank presentation in the lesson folder to guide discussion.)

Note: Guidelines for the teacher are in the "Teacher Notes on PageRank Presentation" document. This document also contains an answer key.  (Students can record their notes in the "PageRank Student Handout".)

  1. Watch the three-minute video on Google search closely to pick up details. Pause, take notes ,and discuss as needed.
  2. Allow students to generate ideas on why one webpage might have a higher PageRank than the other. [slide 3]
  3. Look at the HTML code of the webpage in the PowerPoint to discover the frequency of keywords including synonyms, and occurrence in titles and metatags. [slide 4] (Student handout also has a printout of the HTML code for students to get a closer look.)
  4. Assign words to students to define. Share definitions with the class. [slide 5]
    • Backlink
    • Referring domain
    • PR Quality
    • SEO
    • Alexa Rank
    • Directory listed
    • Domain age.
    • Whois
  5. Discuss possible reasons why two different people can get different results doing the same search. 

Part 2 (20 min) Preliminary Research for creation of video artifacts/PowerPoints

  1. Assign topics for research to student groups. (There are additional topics in the "Search Engine Background" information document if desired). Here are several suggestions:
    • What are additional factors in page rank?
    • What do people do to achieve SEO? (search engine optimization)
    • What is Google bombing? How does it work?
    • How much storage is needed to store Google’s index? How many server farms are needed to store it all? What is the design philosophy of server farms?
    • What’s the environmental impact of server farms? How do they try to stay green?
    • How does advertising affect search engines? Is it necessary? What is “pay per click” and “click fraud”?
    • How is Google getting good at finding things like pictures, videos and other kinds of information beyond just words?
    • How do directories work? Show some examples, such as https://dir.yahoo.com/ .
  2. If you have video recording equipment: Demonstrate how to create a high-quality video artifact,(the kind students might choose to create for their Performance Task).
    • Student handout: 1 minute talk directions -- go over this handout with them.
    • Show the Sample 1 minute video artifact on keyword matching (in the Lesson Resources folder).
  3. With the remaining time, have students begin their research on their chosen topic.

Session 2

Warm up (5 minutes)

Journal (3 min)

Why could it be beneficial for a search engine to keep track of what people are searching for? Discuss.

(Possible answer to lead students toward: Topics sporadically become popular, and knowing what results people like can make it easy to suggest sites to others looking for similar things. History data can also enable a search engine to suggest a search phrase when a single word or only a few letters are typed in.)

Introduction (2 min)

Explain that students will be creating a presentation on the topic they researched in the last session. This presentation should be scripted, and make use of a PowerPoint and sources from the internet. They will have 30 minutes to make this presentation. (Slide 8 is made for video creation, but works well for general presentations too.)

For classes with enough video recording equipment for all groups:

Explain that students will create their own video explanations of how one feature of search engines works. Go over the "1 minute talk directions.odt" together to help students organize their video.

Activity (35 minutes)

Students should split into their groups and begin work. Allow only 10 minutes for additional research as needed. They will take the remaining 25 minutes to:

  1. Make a PowerPoint, gather search results to use as examples, create a rough script, and practice their presentation.
  2. If they are making a video: Write a script, either create a PowerPoint to voiceover or choose some search results to analyze, and practice. The last 5-10 minutes should be used to record a 1 minute video clip of their presentation allowing for multiple retakes)

Presentation of videos or talks (10 minutes)

Show as many videos/ group presentations as you can share with the class. If there are videos, assign the remainder to be watched as homework and have students bring in notes on the key points learned from each video.

Options for Differentiated Instruction

For a shorter class, don't have students take notes, just discuss the slides.

For the Explore performance task, each student should be able to create their own artifact. You could have the students work on the presentations individually in this lesson, as a practice for the Explore task, if your class is fairly competent with the technology.  For students with less experience (or to save time during presentations), it could be beneficial to have students create these artifacts in pairs, with some pairs repeating topics for comparison.

Evidence of Learning

Formative Assessment

Students share best definitions of page rank related terms

Students analyze web pages for reasons for differences in page rank

Summative Assessment

Students create a one-minute video clip on a topic related to the operation of search engines.