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Wave Hello to the Future

Posted by judiyostCA Sep 21, 2009

Every once in awhile, you recognize--or at least consider--that something new could have significant impact on how we will live in the future. I remember the first time I saw Web addresses included on TV ads--several in one evening. I thought, "Wow, this Internet thing is going mainstream." I didn't have the foresight to really see how the Internet would change how we do business--or that in the future, I would buy 75% of my family's non-grocery items online or through online resources, but I had a sense that the Internet just might change the way we do things. I had that feeling again...when I saw Google Wave being demonstrated.


Google has posted a video taken from the Google I/O Developer Conference at the end of May, demonstrating a new product they are working on called Google Wave. The underlying question they started from was What would email look like if it were invented today? Google Wave rethinks how we communicate, collaborate, and share online. As one of the developers in Google's official blog puts it, "A ‘wave' is equal parts conversation and document, where people can communicate and work together with richly formatted text, photos, videos, maps, and more."


As an educator, I was blown away by the impact this product/platform could have on collaboration and writing in education. I was most impressed by these features:


  • Seamlessly convert from "email" to "IM" type of communication depending on whether your contacts are online
    • When you are communicating in real time, you see the message as it's being typed--no waiting to click send
  • Instant translator in 40 languages
    • Again, when communicating in real time, you see the message translated word by word as it's being typed. The translation adjusts as the sentence develops.
  • Edit your "Wave" like a document or a wiki with full accountability as to who contributed which edits
    • Add comments to individual sections of the Wave
  • Re-play a Wave to show how the conversation or document developed and changed over time--again, showing who contributed what
  • Simultaneously update and integrate other applications and extensions--like Twitter, blogs, games (Sudoku and chess being played in real-time were demonstrated--and the ability to playback the game), and polls/surveys that immediately present results visually in the Wave
    • More of this is sure to come since Google Wave is Open Source and developers were invited to start creating integrated applications for it now while it's still being developed
  • Easily share, integrate, and comment on multimedia resources such as video, photos, and maps
    • Drag and drop images from your desktop into a Wave. Thumbnails of the images immediately appear on the recipient's Wave--even before yours have fully uploaded.
  • Collaborate concurrently that is leaps and bounds beyond Google Docs
    • Real-time editing allows you to see edits as they are made--character by character--along with moving icons for the individuals who are making them
  • Spell check your content in context


As an English teacher, electronic spellchecking was always a blessing and a curse--if you didn't know the right word to begin with, a correctly spelled word that's wrong for the context won't help. The spellchecker integrated into Google Wave watches as you type and corrects obvious errors and suggests words based on the context. That doesn't sound all that impressive until it's demonstrated. The following sample was used:


Do you have been soup? It's bean a long time.


These two sentences came up "clean" in my word processing spellchecker, but in Google Wave, "been" was underlined and it suggested "bean." In the second sentence, "bean" was automatically changed to "been."


I think Google Wave has the potential to significantly change the way we communicate and collaborate on the Web--as well as improve our ability to integrate resources and research into our writing. The question is will teachers and school administrators be as excited as I am? Or will they fear it--and block Google Wave from their students' reach? I'm afraid I can see the future a little too clearly on that one.


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Each year as summer comes to an end, households across the United States prepare for “Going Back to School.” This brings about many emotions for parents, students, teachers and administrators. As a parent I am happy to see my kids get back into a routine. This year they are both learning new routines as they are attending new schools – my daughter is entering her first year of middle school and my son is a freshman in High School. As a teacher I find myself questioning what more can I do to prepare my students and hope that I have set them up for a successful semester.  I think the key lies in communication. There are many technological solutions that can assist us in being successful communicators.




For my daughter it is about balancing academics and social interactions. The middle school she attends has three feeder elementary schools that feed into her school. Some of her friends came from these different feeder schools and now she and her friends are altogether in one school. So far, this year is off to a fantastic start. Before school began a “Meet the Teacher” event was held allowing students and parents the opportunity to meet their teachers and begin learning their way around the school. During the second week of classes Curriculum Night was held. This night gives the teacher an opportunity to share the concepts that will be covered throughout the year. Parents actually participated in a mock rotation of their child’s schedule that evening. Several things jumped out at me and impressed me about the way middle school teachers communicate with their students and parents. Each teacher maintains their own class website which is updated at least weekly. The site contains important information about what will be covered in the classroom as well as other relevant links or presentations. These middle school teachers have taken the time to clearly communicate with both the students and the parents. This year the district is creating a Parent Portal which will allow parents to login and view their student’s grades. In the past viewing students grades was done through the individual teacher’s websites. This new portal will house all the information in one location instead of logging in and viewing them one teacher at a time. Unfortunately this is not yet available but we as a family look forward to the release of this awesome communication tool sometime after Labor Day.


My son is learning the many challenges of balancing academics and athletics. His day is comprised of 10-12 hours that involves school related activities such as attending classes, football practice, and touching base with teachers if he needs extra help on an assignment or project. He is feeling overwhelmed with two honors classes and the homework he needs to focus on after football practice. To complicate things even more his teachers are not all on the same page when it comes to communication. Sure, all of his teachers have e-mail accounts, but only a handful of them have a website with updated class information. To check his grades we must log-in and view the grades in each class separately. I give kudos to his English teacher. He emails parents at the end of each week a progress report that encompasses the entire week’s assignments and the grade my son earned for each identified item on the report. I love that this progress report is mailed directly to my home email account. I look forward to seeing that email pop up in my inbox at the end of each week because it helps me stay in touch with what’s happening in that particular class. I should add that my son and I tried to be ahead of the game and check out the school and teachers before school started via the web. What I found was a website that has not been maintained. There were many broken links, teachers listed that were not longer teaching at the school, and some pages that have not been updated or changed in over two years. I sent a letter to the principal hoping to get an answer that would change my attitude and feelings toward the site. She shared with me that they were working on it but as of today, which has been three weeks from the date I emailed her, there have been no changes implemented. I’m hoping that before too long I will begin to see some changes.




I teach for two universities and both are gearing up for the fall semester. For one university I facilitate a course that is completely online in a Blackboard environment. I make use of all the course tools and resources to make this online course engaging and productive. The other course that I teach has an online course for file sharing, discussions and class work submissions while meeting weekly face-to-face throughout the semester. In both courses I strive to incorporate the latest aspects of teaching with technology to enhance communication. By modeling good practices I hope I can share the importance of using the right technology tool to clearly communicate to my students my expectations and course requirements for this class. My role as a parent has definitely impacted and enhanced how I prepare and facilitate my courses.  I have learned what to do and not to do in relationship to communicating with students through firsthand experience with my children’s teachers and the way they have chosen to communicate their class expectations.




So whatever hat you wear – student – teacher or parent, there are technology tools available that will help you clearly communicate expectations to all necessary players. Take some time and find the right tool that meets your needs.  You will be amazed at the benefits you will see inside and outside of the classroom.




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