Every now and then when I talk to someone about Google Wave, after taking a moment to realize what I am talking about, they often begin to complain about how nobody uses the service/application anymore and how it has been a fail of a product. Them not saying something like “It was terrible!” or “Urgh! I never figured out how to use it” makes me think about if the product really had flaws with it, and whether or not its inability to gain momentum from its inception can be attributed to other factors which have probably become discussion points in Google’s past boardroom discussions. I personally never thought the product was bad (although initially I was a little overwhelmed by (1) the 80 min intro video, (2) the number of things going on in it) but just never got around to using it in its early days.
Following initial hiccups in getting people to use the service after incorporating user feedback, in August 2010, Google made an announcement about their decision to stop active development on the product (http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2010/08/update-on-google-wave.html). I wonder how hard it must have been for the author of that post to write that message. But fortunately, that was not the end of the technology: only a month later, Google launches a new blog on Google Wave for Developers, now announcing their plans to make the project open source (http://googlewavedev.blogspot.com/2010/09/wave-open-source-next-steps-wave-in-box.html). Today, the project is an incubator under Apache Foundation – you can follow it at waveinabox.net, code.google.com/p/wave-protocol & http://www.waveprotocol.org/wave-in-a-box.
Technologies fail sometimes, and so this was one of the good example of an organization’s faith in great ideas and a good product. But that does not concern me much. What got me thinking more about Google Wave was the repeated mention of the product in Sudhir Giri’s (Google’s Education and Learning team Manager) speech’s (“Developing a learning ecosystem”) Q&A at the ALT Conference: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KJ-bMbynst0. He talked about how his team was thinking about using it in their products and also heard from a couple of individuals in the crowd who mentioned its use in educational institutions for collaboration.
So, how can we use this open source technology in learning? I asked myself this question, and came up with a few thoughts – although none being impressive. Here are a couple of areas where this tool/technology may be used:
- Distance learning: Clearly, as intended by Google, Wave has great scope in empowering remote meeting/collaboration participants by means of allowing them to express themselves to an extent not seen before. This can not only be used for instruction from one teacher to a student, or even a handful of students, but also for simply student groups trying to collaborate on a paper or brainstorming ideas (I see Google Docs used extensively for this, currently). I would love to see a product emerge out of the integration of a video conference technology system, and Wave – open webinars on education using Wave will be so cool!
- Transparent and collaborative planning: Although this might seem more than obvious to some, we often forget to include administrative efficiency and support as a goal for development and progress. Wave has the potential to play an important role in allowing not only administrators to make better decisions with the ease of collaboration, but also help teachers develop better lesson and course plans while working with distant counterparts or mentors.
One way I would NOT like it to be used would be students “Waving” from their computers onto a display screen showing the live “feed”, while a teacher explains concepts to students. That is just plain obtrusive and undesirable. I am personally very critical of technology interventions that steal a teacher’s limelight during a lecture.
These are just my first thoughts and as you may have realized, I am unable to find existing examples of use of Wave for education and learning. If you know of any interesting examples of how Google Wave is being used in the area of education, please be my comments’ section’s guest!