Encourage Students to Give Feedback on Google Answers

Early on in the Digital Polarization Project we had students do large info-environmentalism projects, and we still do that sometimes. But I’ve become convinced that the more sustainable change is in simpler actions — stuff you can do in a few hours or even a few seconds.

Here’s an example from today — I was talking with my daughter about her summer job, and the question of what minimum wage was in Washington State came up. Google told us it was $11/hour:

minimum wage

And it was — in 2017. But it’s 2018, and so scanning a bit further we found the Washington government site, where it is listed as $11.50 as of this past January:


That could be that, but there is a feedback button below the Google result.


Now I do want to be clear — the chances of Google looking at your particular answer and fixing this particular answer is quite low. Google tends to avoid adjusting individual answers. But if it identifies a systemic problem — for example, broadly out of date minimum wage data across many states — it may result in some attention to the way they derive these answers. So go ahead and do it, it just takes a second:


Having students give feedback also helps remind students that the answers they see at the top of the Google result page are at best guesses.

If you’re looking for a quick classroom activity, going and look up the minimum wage in various states and see if Google gets it right. Give feedback if it doesn’t.