One of the keys to building inquiry in a project is having a great driving question. As one of the key components of one of the Gold Standard Essential Elements of project design, driving questions are something teachers spend a long time with before they are ready to launch their projects. When teaching at a New Tech Network we would spend time with our fellow teachers fine tuning our driving questions because they really are that important.

The other day I came across a new (to me) website that looks at queries on the web. It is called Answer the Public and it gives you all kinds of information about things people have asked about in internet searches. It is simple to use and gives you all kinds of data and is most useful for marketing professionals in their quest for getting the right words for SEO manipulation. But we pbl teachers might want to consider using it to help us with our driving questions too. The following is an example for you to think about.

I started by selecting the topic of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. I had been working on creating a math project around area, surface area, and volume and I wanted students to build scale models of one of the world heritage sites. The results gave me 312 results with 55 “questions” and 37 “prepositions.”

Initial search results

When you look at the results you have some options. The default gave me 55 questions and was broken into the link words of who, what, why, when, where, which, are, can, and will. The visual is fun and gives you a nice reference of possible angles for possible driving questions.

UNESCO World Heritage Search Results

So what is one of the questions that I might manipulate for my project? Let’s look at “What does UNESCO do for world heritage sites?” One thing I noticed is that even though there are a large number of questions, there are a LOT of repeats under each link word. There really aren’t more than about 10 different questions. That can be an issue if your search term isn’t done well or if the focus of your project isn’t something that people are searching for on the web. Later I just typed in “Electric Grid” and had much more useful results.

One of the other options for the search is under the “Comparisons” tab. This ended up being a better search result for me on my UNESCO topic. I found new topics to consider including “Sustainable Tourism” and “Gridlock Over Yemen.” Those might give me something to work with.

Comparisons Search Result

Another tab to consider is the “Alphabeticals” tab. As the name implies it gives you an alphabetical listing by key words. Each letter also gives you an image of a comparison in the amount of searches for each key word for that letter. Looking at the letter B gave me a nice image to consider and gave me some related topics to consider such as “biosphere reserves” and “rice terraces.”

The next search result I looked at was under the “Prepositions” tab. This gave me a visual around the link words of can, to, is, with, without, for and near. The main thing I gathered out of these was a listing of countries people have searched for with (or without) sites.

Will I use this again for creating a great driving question? Absolutely. Can I guarantee it will give me results that will help me every time? Not necessarily. But one thing I see with using this is helping me focus my overall project idea. And, it might be a good place to send students who are looking to do research and aren’t sure what to use as a good search term or expression. I’m glad I found this site and I hope it helps you in your pursuit of being the best teacher for your students.

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