Google’s “new” “new mission”

I recently listened to a Supernova podcast which interviewed Bradley Horowitz, the head of Google Apps among other things.  Bradley discussed the basics of Google Apps but also the mission and vision for the product.  The take away for me was that Google is moving from organizing the worlds public information (, etc) to also attempting to organize the worlds private or semi-priavte information (Google Apps).

That sounds all well and good to me as a “new” mission for Google.  I benefit greatly from Google Apps in the areas of productivity, communication, collaboration, etc.  I also love how Google Apps brings my web and mobile experiences together (go Android!).  This organization of my private and semi-private information worlds along with the traditional search capabilities of Google are all-in-all just fantastic.  However, I would like to see Google take yet one more step.

If step one was “Organizing the worlds information – PUBLIC”
If step two is “Organizing the worlds information – PRIVATE/SEMI-PRIVATE/PERSONAL/ORG/ENTERPRISE”

I would like to see a step three:

“Organizing the worlds information – TACIT/CONVERSATIONAL/DIALOGUE”

I envision this as a real-time mashup of WAVE/VOICE/GMAIL where Google users can search for real-time information from real people.  There would need to be a transactional piece (like eBay), a ratings/review piece (like Amazon), and a security/verification piece (Facebook connect?). Of course, I am sure Google can add their own serahc piece as well…

An example use case:

I am a student at a public school working with a small group of other students.  Our teacher has just given us a writing assignment.  We have been asked to write an alternative healthcare bill for congress.  We are to provide an abstract which includes a summary of our position on the current debate and the key elements or our bill would contain (if a real bill for congress).  And BTW it is due in 45 minutes!  We start by reviewing online content including editorials and materials and having a conversation about our general thoughts and understandings.  We are having difficulty grasping the differences between the two main sides of this debate and we are looking to run our current ideas past an expert.  Using Google’s real-time search mashup, we locate 2 people online currently that claim to be healthcare experts.  We read the reviews of past interactions they have had with other users and we check their public Facebook pages.  We use Voice/Wave to call each of them and our conversation and interview notes are captured and shared.  From these two interviews we are able to check our ideas and clarify how our views differ from the two views put forth currently in Congress.  We are not billed by the two experts because we are students.  We do, however, give positive feedback on each experts page and give a brief comment on what our objective was and how we were helped.

Second example:

I am at a bar.  A friend and I get into a heated debate over who was the female star in the late 80’s movie “Weird Science”.  Was it Kelly McGillis or Kelly LeBrock?  Not only are we fighting over the name of the actress but we both wonder what happened to either of these actresses.  A Google search on a mobile in a bar late at night is possible but not probable.  A quick search of experts online that have expertise based on a keyword search of “80’s movie trivia” using Google’s real-time search mash-up pulls up three possibilities.  We use Google Voice to call one of them, get our answer and pass the phone around to others at the bar that have additional Weird Science related questions.

Third example:

I just finished watching a local nightly news program.  There was a disturbing report of an oil spill in the bay of a  town I once visited in Alaska.  I am really interested in knowing more about the spill, what the response is going to be, who is involved, etc, etc.  A quick Google News search only turns up a link to the story I just watched.  Using Google’s real-time search mash-up I find that 2 people who live in the town are online now and have gestured that they want to discuss the latest on what is happening on the ground.  I use Voice/Wave to contact one of the people who is all ready speaking with 3 others who have contacted him to get more information as well.  Eventually, when I disconnect, over 30 people are listening to the first hand account (the person is actually on his cell phone standing on the beach of the bay) and asking questions.  I look back later and see the transcript of the conversation I was involved in online (and others) linked to other first hand accounts.   By this point, traditional media are following up their original story with quotes from these conversations.

This is the the third stage for Google in my opinion.  Imagine having access to a global network of real-time people in addition to the text, audio, video, search results, etc.  Imagine being able to connect all of the mobile phones in the world and the people who carry them each with their own unique skill set.  Now imagine a system that administers the searching for, verification of, payment of (optional), rating of, and transcribing for later use of this network.  Imagine the possibilities for education, for medicine, for government, for fun!


“5 K-12 Technology Trends for 2010” with rebuttal

I was recently sent a link to an article entitled “5 K-12 Technology Trends for 2010” from THE Journal.  I thought it would make an interesting blog post with my additional comments and questions after each.  See below in RED:

1. eBooks Will Continue to Proliferate

eBook readers aren’t going to replace traditional math and English textbooks anytime soon, but J. Gerry Purdy, chief analyst, mobile and wireless, for business research and consulting firm Frost & Sullivan in Atlanta, said the devices will gain traction in the K-12 arena this year.

“The eBook phenomenon is gaining ground in the consumer space, where people are using them to read both fiction and non-fiction,” said Purdy. “The way the stars are aligned, it won’t be long before someone adapts eBooks out of the consumer space and makes textbooks available on these portable devices.”

While eBooks would literally lessen the load that students have to carry around with them in backpacks all day, Purdy said, the devices aren’t “quite there yet” when it comes to color, graphics, and symbols. “The eBook readers are mostly black-and-white right now,” he added, “but when the technology advances to the point where color and animation can be integrated, it will become much more viable for the textbook market.”

This is interesting from the stand point that ebooks will have over current textbooks:

  • Less weight for kids
  • New updates every year
  • Fewer dead trees

But also from the stand point of possible future options:

  • Getting collaborative, open texts in students hands (schools/students could publish their own)
  • Textbooks could be social and networked
  • Text could be audio, video, interactive
  • Text could be updated in real-time
  • Students could actually keep their annotated texts in their personal library forever instead of turning them in at the end of the year

2. Netbook Functionality Will Grow
One-to-one computer initiatives are proliferating throughout United States schools and are expected to become even more popular in 2010 as netbooks become even more affordable. Priced at $200 to $300, these small, inexpensive computers are helping to bridge the technology divide that exists at those schools where individual students don’t have access to their own laptops.

Netbooks, Purdy said, are opening the door for students to tap the Web as a learning tool, along with general computing–which will eliminate the need for multiple devices (one for computing, another for Web browsing, and so forth) by students, said Purdy, and will help streamline technology initiatives at the district level. “I know that if were administration, I wouldn’t want to issue two to three devices to each student,” he said. “I’d want one device that would fulfill multiple needs.”

Agreed, however, it looks more and more like the pure netbook (smaller screen, smaller keyboard, etc) is going away and we are getting a hybrid netbook/ultra-portable laptop (12 inch screen, full keyboard,etc) for ~$400.  The market is finding the sweet spot!

3. More Teachers Will Use Interactive Whiteboards
Large, interactive display systems that allow teachers and students to work together in ways that traditional blackboards could not are gaining ground in the K-12 environment. Expect the trend to continue this year, said Sheryl Abshire, chief technology officer for
Calcasieu Parish Public Schools in Lake Charles, LA.

“These tools have been around for a while, but the educational landscape wasn’t ready to use them 10 years ago,” said Abshire.

Abshire said she credits federal economic stimulus funds for helping to advance the use of whiteboards, many of which are just now being installed and used in the nation’s K-12 schools. “We’re seeing a big resurgence in their use, and I expect that to continue in 2010,” she said. “The buzzword for the 21st century is ‘engaged learning,’ and the whiteboards will serve as a catalyst for getting students out of their seats and up to the board to learn.”

A couple of issues….

  • Do smartboard acquisitions fool educational decision makers into believing that they have completed the task of “integrating technology”?
  • Are smartboards, in theory and in practice, a teacher centric technology or a student centric technology?
  • Does smartboard centered instruction support continuous instructional improvement or does it further embed mediocre teaching practices?

4. Personal Devices Will Infiltrate the Classroom
Sometimes barred from the classroom owing to perceptions of security risks and student “distractions,” smart phones and iPods are now making their way into the K-12 space, and with teachers’ and administrators’ blessings. “We’re definitely on the cusp of seeing more of these personal devices in the classroom,” Abshire predicted.

The fact that most smart phones come with wireless capabilities and larger screens makes them particularly relevant in the K-12 space, where “after the stimulus money runs out, we’re going to be in trouble in terms of federal money for technology,” said Abshire. “The next logical step is for the devices to come into school.”

Purdy concurred and said the fact that some students are getting their own wireless devices by second or third grade will accelerate the trend. “We used to think this was a ‘teen’ phenomenon,” said Purdy. “But its now culturally acceptable for someone as young as seven or eight years old to have a cell phone. It won’t be long before every student will have access to one or more wireless, portable devices in the classroom.”

When will K12 policy makers learn to embrace these devices as opposed to banning them?  We can’t, as Alan November would say, “cut off their tentacles when they enter the school building.  It only helps to make school less real.

5. Technology Will Enable Tailored Curricula
On educators’ and administrators’ wish lists right now is an easier, tech-based way to assess, record and track individual student performance in the classroom. David Stienes, principal with private equity fund
LLR Partners in Philadelphia, said those wishes could come true this year, courtesy of several emerging companies that are working on new student assessment tools.

Once ready for prime time, the programs will allow teachers to track a child’s progression through the K-12 years on a weekly basis to ensure that “things are going according to plan,” said Stienes. The programs will also integrate benchmarking data for measuring a student’s progress against other children, thus paving the way for more individualized, customized curriculum options.

“Historically, schools have given specialized attention to students who ‘fall out of the system,’ but not when it comes to applying individual curriculum to a broader population,” said Stienes. “Look for technology to change that in the near future.”

What would these tools look like in a school that believes in progressive, constructivist/constructionist, project based pedagogy?

Educational Technology: “From”, “About”, and/or “With”

I just started reading an “older” (1996) educational technology book called “Computers in the Classroom: Mindtools for Critical Thinking” by David H. Jonassen. Initially, Jonasson organizes the educational technology world in three parts.  Technologies that we learn “from” (drill and kill, automated tutors, etc.).  Technologies we learn “about” (the parts of a computer, how to use Photoshop, etc).  And, technologies we learn “with” (software tools that force a user to think deeply using higher order thinking skills).  The majority of the examples focus on the “with” category.

I think Jonassen’s model for organizing technologies in education is smart and will allow for easier sharing and classification of new technologies as educators explore new and innvoative solutions for students.

As I picked this book up and started reading it, I also made a connection with a discussion I was having at ACES with our Tech Council.  It was brought up that the new NAEP 2012 Tech Assessment will assess three areas.  They are:

  1. science, technology, and society
  2. technology education
  3. information and communications technology (ICT)

The concern raised in the article (and during our discussion) was that many school districts are focusing on number 3, the ICT approach, and when schools are assessed they will fail on numbers one and two.  I could argue how educational technology should be defined or what exactly should be assessed.  However, even though these topics are important, I will leave them for another day.

My concern is that even when all three of these areas are included in the public school district curriculum, the mix of instructional  types (from, about, and with) are not evenly or appropriately used.  It has been my experience that too many leaders mistake learning “from” technology as adequate “integration” or “use” of technology.  Others focus on the “about” technologies approach (which I see as valid) but often at the expense of the use of technology.  Ultimately, to be successful in all three areas, it is my belief that we must work “with” the technology to allow students to construct deeper understanding through activities that force critical thought.  “With” as opposed to activities in the “from” and “about” approaches that promote important but typically more superficial types of learning.

“Rewilding” the political party system

What if we didn’t have two political parties?  What if we had a million parties?  What if we had one party?  What if the number and makeup of the parties changed in real-time?  What if party members could join, leave, merge, secede, delete, etc their parties as easily as they change clothes or even websites?  What if users were able to make a case for their views and support those views with evidence found online or put online?  What if other users could engage in debate/dialogue/reasoning to persuade others to join their party and vice versa?

What if we created a clean slate  or “rewilded” the political party system.  Everyone is an independent to start.  Anyone can create a party.  Anyone can join a party (but only one party at a time).  Anyone can leave a party and join another party.  A group of party members could decide to merge with another party or persuade another party to merge with their party.  A party could decide to change its name or views or not.  A party could decide to disband or delete itself.

What would be the point of this system?  Ultimately, to create a political system that the people want it to be, one that has its rules written by its constituents.  A system free of the shackles of the past (and tradition).  A system free of its corporate, union, and $$$ masters (of course anyone will be able to participate in this new system however).  It will start as a social and political experiment but could it eventually become more?  Could it influence real candidates?  Show them that the only safe harbors are not simply A or B.

This new system would be one of conversation not marketing (Cluetrain).  It would be open and nimble and owned by its users (currently reading What Would Google Do by Jeff Jarvis).  It would hopefully be a platform for true discourse.  A market of ideas.  A network of constantly changing niche networks (again Jarvis).  The antithesis of the talking heads in the mainstream media.  A system based in the ideals and values of the open source movement.  Currency would be information, ideas, and reputation.

The tools of this system would be the current and future social and construction tools that are being made possible by the Web and the current generation of internet companies.    News, information, and data shared thru Delicious, ad-hoc networks created on Facebook and Twitter, collaborative position papers and platforms hashed out and published in Google Docs, Audio and Video shared via Youtube and other sites, and new ways of cooperating in Google Wave.

We will need someone to launch this system.   We will need a person or group to set up the basic rules.  A group to build the basic functinality of the system and unleash it to the masses (and make sure it is open sourced and freely distributable).  From there it will need to be governed by a neutral body interested in refereeing, maintaining and even innvoating in a way that is lead by the users but that maitains fairness across the system.

I see no reason why this could not be done by a handful of political junkies, passionate human beings, AJAX coders, and some recession provided free time.  Anyone care to join me?