Have you heard of the Google?
I would like to start this post with a short anecdote:
A friend of mine called me this fall and told me that he was feeling very downtrodden. He had a new superintendent who was not that tech savvy. However, he had stopped by this one particular afternoon all excited and holding a new article about technology. He came into my friend's office waving it and saying that he had a new technology of which he had just learned. He then asked my friend, "Have you heard of 'The Google'?" My friend almost cried.
So what makes this story so humorous? Well because everyone has heard of Google. It is one of the few companies that is also a verb and is so part of our vernacular today that everyone, or so we thought, knows what it is.
But do most people really understand what Google has become? The search engine is an important component of the company but it is now sharing the stage with other tools. Our school district now has a Google Apps account- the Education version. What does this mean? In short, it will allow us to have Google Docs, Gmail, Google Sites, Calendar, Google Video, and more! All of them will have a URL that will start with our district name instead of Google. The next question that many people ask is, Why is this important? or, Why are you embarking on this? The main reason comes down to one word and that is COLLABORATION---a 21st century skill of which all students need to be familiar.
Up until the last few years you would have to have a network with file servers in order to be able to share documents and other pieces of information with colleagues. The problem with this is that once you are outside of "the network," you then have to find a way back in to retrieve your files. This meant cumbersome things like Citrix or VPN. It never really gave you the same experience as if you were actually at your office or classroom and then inside the network.
A second reason is because sharing things with students as well as student to student sharing has always been cumbersome and filled with problems. However, now we are entering an age of cloud computing. This means, for example, I can create a Google Doc and share it with whomever I want in the world. I can also access that Google Doc anywhere in the world. By sharing, I can then share with students, colleagues, and even people outside of the network. You don't have to email the document and then wait for it to come back to continue to work on it! All the editing is live. Again the word is COLLABORATE. Consider the endless possibilities of the global learning and collaboration that can take place between teachers and students!
The possibilities are endless and it opens up many doors including allowing the whole teaching community to have full access to all their files and information 24/7. We all know students (and teachers) who do work at all hours of the night. With cloud computing, this is now easier and the whole learning community can feel connected at any hour of the day and night.
James Yap and Teresa Ivey