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.

 

Blog originally posted at: http://www.clarity-innovations.com/about/blog/jyost/wave-hello-future