The Strength of Weak Ties

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Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Cha Cha

From Steve Dembo comes word of a new search engine called Cha Cha. What makes this interesting and different is that you can access human help to help you with your search. This is done through a chat interface. Read Steve's original post for a comprehensive description of the site.

So, I decided to try it.

To begin, I clicked on Search with a Guide. Within about two seconds, Robert replied, inquiring about my request on digital storytelling. I replied that I was in educational technology and just checking out the site to see how it might work for our kids.

While I was responding links on digital storytelling started populating my search, added by Robert.

Robert indicated that they won't search adult topics and specifically asked me to narrow my search.

I did ask him about his background and he complied, telling me about his background (in technology) and mentioning that his wife was also a guide.

Robert answered my questions about the service which I appreciated. He also continued to search for my request on examples of digital stories in K-12 education.

Interested schools can evidently request a toolbar to install in their browsers so that kids can use ChaCha to search on their own or with the assistance of a guide.

I did ask Robert if kids were already using this, and he said of course. By the way, Cha Cha is still in beta.

OK, with Cha Cha kids can have their own personal research assistant, available through the chat. I can just see the reactions. But it's like anything, kids will use it once they discover it. The question now becomes how soon will Cha Cha be blocked in schools because of the chat, and will Cha Cha go the way of many new technology tools-used by kids outside of schools but blocked in the schools they attend?

And what about librarians? You can just imagine how they will react. I'd like to be around the first time a kid is using a Cha Cha guide and not a librarian to help with a search. Fireworks.

Overall, I liked the service. Robert was professional and genuinely seemed anxious and willing to help. I think this could help kids when they are on their own and need some help-obviously the chat is a natural for them. They certainly are not learning how to search at school, so in the times when they need the help, perhaps Cha Cha can fill that need.

Please give it a try for yourself.


  • At 7:08 PM , Blogger Carolyn Foote said...

    I posted about this on my blog as well because I'm already seeing students in our library using it.

    In fact, my son introduced me to it, because he was being paid as a guide(he's a freshman in college).

    These things are somewhat "viral" so I expect lots of our students to be using it soon, although I've heard them discussing their mixed results with each other.

    So...I'm guessing the power of this tool taking off will be how well it works for students. last comment, I'm a librarian, and I don't have a problem with it. (Though I plan to explore it more myself and see how well the guides work).

    I will let our teachers know about it so they can decide what they think or try it out!

  • At 10:26 PM , Blogger David said...

    Carolyn: How do you think most librarians would react to this?


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