Sunday, February 04, 2007

Welcome to the Conversation! Thank You, Google!

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.


Diane E. Main, GCT NorCal 2006 said...

Okay, so, I'm with you. But we're both geeks. (I know that you know that I mean that as a compliment.)

We know that this is where we need to go in order to provide access to students for academics. But what about the people who oversee us (and the other edu-geeks out there)? Most people I work with have never even heard of Web 2.0. Of course, in such cases, I make it my task to evangelize to them. But you would not believe the resistance I encounter.

Wait, of course you would.

So you know what I am talking about then. Our student CAN do so much. They have the talent, the ability . . . and in some cases, the tools. And free stuff like what Google is providing can get the tools to the rest of them.

But what our students also have are parents and teachers holding them back.

It cracks me up when a parent does not know that their child's MySpace contains borderline soft porn, but they get all in a tizzy when a kid gets spam in their school e-mail advertising Viagra. (P.S. Parents of the world, your child either knows what Viagra is for and doesn't care, ir he/she is still blissfully ignorant. Don't make it worse for the kid by making a big deal out of it.)

Or that there are teachers out there who simply WILL NOT allow students to e-mail them or send them instant messages, but they expect the students to be able to do a long-term project with the only chance to ask the teacher a question about it being face-to-face with thirty other kids in the room.

My kids can e-mail me. (No promises I'll answer right away.) My kids can IM me. (No promises I will acknowledge them, but generally I am available.)

Oh, I am getting myself into a tizzy now. I should just go.

Fred Welsh said...

I agree, now that high speed internet has become so affordable such as Nationwide DSL, students will be able to access the internet at lightning speed. With such a high degree of bandwidth in many schools, I see no problem with accessing Web 2.0 features as they are affordable and efficent, compared to programs that need to be bought and installed on each computer.

As for Diane, I do believe that students will eventually learn how to use Web 2.0 applications, such as how they learned to use Word, Excel and Power Point.