Blog Archive

Monday, March 28, 2016

I love Ctrl F.

Ctrl F is my favorite keyboard command. It is simple and powerful. This find function works on almost anything: websites, pdfs, emails, documents, etc.

Here are some of the reasons I love Ctrl F.

I love it because it makes finding specific information in dense or long text faster and easier.
Ctrl F

I love it because it helps me organize materials...and then find them later when I've forgotten how I organized them.

I love it because students love it. They think it is a cheat. I guess it is, in a way. What they do not realize is what it teaches them to do.

Last semester, I saw the power of Ctrl F several times in class. The best moment, though, was during finals.

A young man, let's call him Dan, was taking his final exam and was struggling to get through the reading passages.

Now Dan had probably heard me explain Ctrl F a dozen times, but Dan being Dan, he wasn't paying attention nine of those times and he had forgotten about the other three.

Dan was quietly attempting to take his final...which was already pretty miraculous. He has a habit of random outbursts and incessant tapping. He also has the attention span of a flea.

Anyway, he called me over because he couldn't find the answer to one of the questions.

I asked "What have you tried to find the answer?"

"I read it and now I am looking for the answer, but I can't find it." he replied.

"Ok, have you tried Ctrl F?" I asked.

"What is that?!" he responded.

I hit Ctrl F, showed him the little bar at the top of the page and asked him what word he was looking for in the text. He gave me a word and I typed it into the Find box. The word, I don't remember what it was, appeared a handful of times in the text. I had him click on the arrows to navigate to the places where the word he wanted appeared.

Dan's eyes widened, he stuck both hands into his 6 inch bush of wild hair, and screamed "What!? What!? Where has this been all my life!?"

I had to shush him-we were taking a final exam after all-but his enthusiasm was contagious. He informed me that he was going to try now saying "I got this, now, I got this."

I left him to it. Several other students immediately asked me what Ctrl F was and I showed them.

They had no way to know the test had been designed with use of such keyboard commands in mind. I expect and want students to learn to use all the advantages computers give them, and to use them strategically.

In order to use Ctrl F to its best advantage you have to have some skills.

It requires you to know how to identify key words...and common synonyms for them. It requires you to skim text effectively. It builds understanding of how various print media is organized.

This semester, I saw the power of Ctrl F in a new way.

It was during registration. Students are required to select their own course selections into our student information system.  It was a tedious task. The counselors came into our English classes and we walked students through it.

Still the results were riddled with errors. We tried some more. I included Ctrl F when I helped individual students, but hadn't thought to make sure everyone used it.

I happened to be covering for a colleague a few days later and wanted to make sure students knew they could use Ctrl F to locate the courses they wanted to add to their schedules instead of scrolling down a seemingly endless list.

I interrupted the counselor's presentation to add Ctrl F to the process. It worked.

Afterwards, she thanked me and told me how much she wished she had known about Ctrl F sooner because it would have made the process much less problematic.

Ctrl F is my reminder that though the breadth of e-tools may seem overwhelming to us old folks, I must seek out and cherish the tools that help us teach and learn better.

It increases efficiency and confidence for both students and teachers. It has to be taught, but the gains it yields are immense.

Ctrl F is a game changer for kids who find the sheer volume of text they encounter challenging. It is empowering. It is liberating. It is a means of supporting deeper thinking and reading. It represents the future of learning: sifting through billions of words and ideas to make meaning for ourselves.

Ctrl F is a good thing and that is why I love it.


  1. Wow, I forgot all about that function. Thanks for the reminder!!!

  2. Wow, I forgot all about that function. Thanks for the reminder!!!


What do you think? Does this good thing remind you of a story of your own? Have a question or comment? Please leave a comment!