Over the past few days, it’s been very hard to contain my excitement over Google’s recent moves to add all the applications from standard Google accounts to Google Apps for Education. While the core suite of applications – Mail, Docs and Calendar – are extremely useful and have put my school on the Web 2.0 map, I’ve been so disappointed that other Google apps like Reader, Picasa and Blogger have been off-limits for so long.
Sure, students can create their own Google accounts, you say? Having worked with frustrated teachers and students who all-too-easily forget usernames and passwords, I’ve really come to appreciate the ability to control accounts as the school administrator and have kids quickly online and using the tools they need to get ahead.
Now when all of my students log in, they get immediate access to an incredibly powerful set of Web 2.0 applications without the need to enter a single name or additional password! Exploring these is going to take some time, but it’s great to know they’re there for anyone to use.
Some of the new applications I’ll be running PD on are:
1. Google Reader
Call it the nerd factor in me, but I have to say that hands down, Google Reader is the most remarkably simple yet sophisticated piece of the Web 2.0 pie. While many educators have consigned RSS feeding into the too-hard basket of technology education (installing feed readers, locating RSS feeds, keeping up to date, etc.), Google Reader makes RSS reading fun, social and very easy to get started. As far as I’m concerned, it’s a valuable teaching doorway into the vast world of internet content. I’m really looking forward to sharing feeds/articles and helping my students getting started with organising their reading on the web.
2. Picasa Web Albums
Google’s extremely generous web storage allocation (I know it’s now in the several gigabytes but have lost count) is incredibly good news for Google Apps Education students making use of this photo management gem. However, it’s Picasa’s easy integration with other Web 2.0 services like Blogger, Reader and Docs along with mobile integration and a very powerful photo management application for Windows and Mac that wins hands down.
While not my blogging tool of choice (sorry Google, WordPress has the edge for now), Blogger makes blogging very easy and hassle-free. It’s great to know that my kids can get started without the need for another username or password, and I’ll be incredibly keen to explore this as a platform for electronic learning portfolios.
Pieces in a Web 2.0 Puzzle
It’s easy to see that already, Google is bringing to the web the same kind of integration that Apple brings through suites of applications like iLife and iWork that easily “talk to” one another without the need to transcode data or switch out of one app and into another (just think about the “Blog this” buttons in Picasa and Reader or the Picasa Web functionality in Blogger). As a technology expert/administrator, I see this as a level playing field for all teachers and students. While not all of the tools will be used all of the time, making them available is the first step to transforming the curriculum and the way we teach with technology.