Google released findings from eye tracking studies they have been conducting on where your eyes are going when you encounter a page of search engine results. The findings..not surprisingly show that Google is giving you exactly what you want when searching the web. Although, if you're a reader here...you'll know that I for one have misgivings about this claim. (In terms of full disclosure...I am an unabashed GoogleLover. My entire online communication system is powered by, and owned by Google.)
Nevertheless, the findings show a couple of interesting things in relation to the work we're conducting on online reading comprehension, and teaching searching strategies in a classroom. The eye-tracking results show a tell-tale "F" pattern for most users. Which means that individuals spend a lot of their time on the first site, and then progressively less and less time as they move through the results.
The results also suggest that searching, and deciding which link to select almost seem to be a subconscious process. The user rarely progresses beyond the first one...and maybe two links.
Thumbnails, images and adds only help the user to skim through and avoid unnecessary content even more quickly.
As far as how this should impact our work with students...understanding the task or question you are researching online is paramount. Selecting great keywords, and being self-reliant on editing and revising keywords is as important. Probably the most important piece is still having that "healthy skepticism" while reading online. If individuals are frequently reading the first result given in a search engine, and rarely going beyond that link...we need to teach individuals how to check and double check the information given to us by Google.
Google believes, as evidenced by these results, that they are giving us what we want when we search. We can not trust and blindly accept the results that are kicked out by the search engine, sifting through the results is still very necessary.
It is time to teach our students...and employ better online reading habits as adults...when we read and learn online.