Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The Power of Google

I am beginning to prepare for my upcoming workshops this spring, one of which I am titling "The Power of Google." The class will center on the free applications available for educators at the Google for Educators site and how to design lessons that include the applications as part of the process. In addition, I want to see my staff embrace some of the personal applications, like Google Reader, Blogger, Notebook; these tools, with the proper modeling, can begin to change the way they use the web, moving from a one-way operation, to a read/write operation.

The articles that keep coming in through Reader or through Pageflakes, while touting the arrival of the as-yet fictional GoogleOS, all point to a really amazing trend: the Internet OS. Steve Warren at Datamation writes:

Microsoft, Apple, Google, Linux, etc. are on the verge of the next
computer revolution. I believe Microsoft put out its last big operating
system with Vista, and will next modularize its OS via Windows Live and
the Internet. In other words, rather than spending five years building
an enormous new release with endless lines of code to release in one
complete package, I see Microsoft offering consumers the core
slimmed-down software, and then adding or updating portions as they are

That's exciting stuff, and the groundwork is being laid by applications like OpenOffice, Zoho (which I keep writing about) and of course Google. Beyond the coolness factor, these are some real powerful tools to be put in the hands of educators and students. Collaborative work, simultaneous edits, and asynchronous learning are all integral parts to these applications--they are built in.

Chris Dawson at ZDNet writes that "Teaching Google certainly means teaching students to harvest the power
of a great (but utterly overwhelming) search appliance, but, more
importantly, it means showing them what Web 2.0 is really all about." When students explain to their teachers that the research they "copied and pasted" into their research paper or project came from the top two or three search results at Google, the teacher needs to have some recourse, and we don't have to look much further than Google itself, even before it went 2.0. But the features that will really sell this to the people that need it, my staff, will be the RSS feeds and the ability for them to share documents.

I have this vision of a lesson, shown originally to me by Mark Erb of Kutztown High School, in Kutztown, PA using SubEthaEdit, whereby the students are broken into groups and asked to answer a series of questions on a document. The rules are simply that the groups must answer the question "live" in Google Documents, where no two groups can have the same answer to the question. So as the students are writing their answer they are debating the answers of the other groups and creatively finding another solution. You just can't do this stuff with desktop publishing applications.

Dawson states what I believe is going to be true, and what I hope will be true after this year in my district:

In fact, I really believe that any high school class offered in basic productivity apps like Word and Excel really needs to hit on Web 2.0 style apps like Google Docs. If this reflects the state of the art and an emerging trend in the business world (Office Live, anyone?), then any business-oriented computing class would be remiss if it didn't cover Google Apps.

The addition of these read/write technologies, at least on the word processing front is a great avenue to introduce faculty to what is available to them in not so foreign an environment. Like Susan Brooks-Young, I too am looking for any resources in this area.

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1 comment:

Barbara said...

I ljke your vision! I still have to follow thelink to the live lesson activity however I was also struck by something else you said...
In fact, I really believe that any high school class offered in basic productivity apps like Word and Excel really needs to hit on Web 2.0 style apps like Google Docs.
Interestingly our High Schools do not teach productivity tools... they assume them... especially wp and excell. They may have anintro to computers class but not much..So we are starting to teach the basic skills in 3 - 5 grade and applying them in 6-8.