One of the issues that I am sensitive to being a teacher and encouraging the use of technology by students is that there is a 'point of entry' for students to join the conversation. The cost of computers is coming down ($350 for the basic system) to the point where they are affordable for most students and high speed access (AT&T - $14.99/mo. - 384k DSL) is becoming as affordable as the old dial up connections. We are doing things to assist students who cannot afford this level of access, with refurbished computers and 'Internet Connection Scholarships.' (Digital Bridge Project) For quite some time, this was only part of the equation, because after you had the computer, you needed to buy several software applications to write a paper or create a project that a student could take to school and have it run on the computers the school has.
This is why I am really impressed with all of the Web 2.0 applications that are available to students absolutely free. Why am I writing about this now? Because over the past few months, there have been several things that Google has done that will bring all of this together in one package and easily accessible to every student in the world. OK... so, what is all of this about?
Google has purchased and re-released several applications and packaged them all together. Google purchased Writely and re-released it as Docs and Spreadsheets, attached the Google name to Blogger, SketchUp and Keyhole's Earth. Today, Tech Crunch and the Google Operating System blogs have reported that there is a presentation tool similar to PowerPoint in the works. It is well known that Google purchased 'JotSpot,' an online wiki tool a few months ago and I would suspect that it will re-released before the end of the school year in June 2007. Google Apps for your Domain, which launched toward the end of last year, is already integrating several of the basic Google tools, like: Gmail, Calendar, Chat and GooglePages. How hot is Google Apps for your Domain? When I showed the district Technology Coordinators the 'portal' I set up for Capuchino, I had two Technology Coordinators pull out credit cards and create accounts for their school.
Many of the comments around the Internet talk about other online word processing tools like, ZohoWriter, etc. But the point is that Google will soon have all of these tools integrated into a single package of some sort, which will create the 'Google Student Desktop' I blogged about in November. The benefit of all of this to students is that they don't need to have all the applications on every computer they use. They have access to everything they need at school, Mom's or Dad's house (in a blended family), the public library, Starbucks, etc.
The point of entry will be zero! All students will have the ability to be members of the conversation, the collaboration and the creativity of what we are calling Web 2.0.