Five Hundred Miles

 4. Prospecting

While schooling in the 19th and 20th centuries was primarily about students mastering processed information - the core curriculum - it is likely that schooling and learning during the next century will be characterized by far more prospecting - the purposeful, skilled, but sometimes haphazard search for insight and truth across a complicated information landscape.






The information prospector must . . .

Scour, clean out, turn over, rake over
Pick over, turn out, turn inside out
Rake through, rifle through, go through
Search through, look into every nook and cranny
Look or search high and low
Search high heaven
Sift through, winnow, explore every inch
Go over with a fine-tooth comb
Pry into, peer into, peep into, peek into

Overhaul, frisk, go over, shake down
Search one's pockets, feel in one's pockets
Search for, feel for, grope for, hunt for
Drag for, fish for, dig for
Leave no stone unturned, explore every avenue,
Cast about, seek a clue, follow the trail

(SOURCE: Roget's Thesaurus of English words and phrases.)

Effective prospecting is a blend of art and skill, not simply a matter of wandering around with a divining rod in your two hands hoping to find the gold or water or oil below the surface.

The goal of prospecting is to improve the odds of success so that finding good information is a probability rather than an accident.

While prospecting involves dozens of skills, several are especially important ( if you have time read this extra section on prospecting).

There are three stages to prospecting:

  • Locating reliable, high quality sites
  • Creating bookmarks for future visits when necessary
  • Creating a flow of information when possible

Locating and bookmarking: While you might use either a search engine or an index to locate reliable, high quality sites, during this workshop, we will employ an index.

Go to Yahoo Directory at or Google Directory at and find the subject headings most likely to match your subject and then bookmark the 5 best sites you can find. Your students will create a more extensive list of bookmarks to support return visits.

Looking for news of current events? Try a search of one of these sites for an issue or event which intrigues you.

Creating a flow of information: Some sources such as listservs, Zines, and newsgroups will allow you or your students to set up a continuing flow of e-mail messages on subjects. To use these sources, students must have their own e-mail addresses.

Warning! Please note that some of these electronic resources may not be appropriate for certain ages or may offer controversial and offensive material. Parental and teacher guidance during this stage is often appropriate. Make sure you understand your district's Internet policy.

Find a ZINE which matches your subject and enter a subscription. John Labowitz's list offers more than 1500! ZINES (

Find a LISTSERV which matches your subject and enter a subscription.

  • One of the best ways to find a listserv which matches your subject is to go to Yahoo and do a search for 2 words:
listserv subject

"listserv chess"

"listserv photography"

This may be faster than consulting a huge, slow-loading list of the many thousands of listservs and newsgroups available.

Take advantage of ALERTS - services which will send you customized information. Note: some cost money.

  • Google will send you news alerts on topics you request.
  • Amazon.Com will send you e-mail about new books which emerge on topics you care about.

As "push technology" matures, we and our students will have an increasingly rich assortment of resources flowing into our e-mail boxes daily. Then we must be sure we can make sense of the flow. How do we sort, sift and then find time to actually read all this information?

Please do not proceed to the next module until asked to do so.

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Credits: The drawings, photographs and graphics are by Jamie McKenzie.

© 2006, Jamie McKenzie, all rights reserved.
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