Monday, January 11, 2016

Dear Google - The Next Thing

Dear Google,
I'm writing this letter to let you know what the next big innovation in education should be. Granted, I am just one person, in one school, with some fabulous teachers, but I'm sure what I'm about to say will make sense to some of you that work in the Google offices.

I believe my school is ready to move forward. GAFE has served us well for about 4 years but now my teachers are losing some of the creativity I saw a few years ago. They are weary of the same docs, sheets, slides, and draw. As the tech coach, I get questions in the hall asking what is Google going to give us next. Naturally there is always something, but they are small increments. 

As for the students, I have a true story that happened today: I walked into a classroom that had many groups of students talking amongst themselves and all on computers or chromebooks. I leaned down to ask a students what they were doing. He said they were filling in a chart. Each student had a Google Doc chart distributed to them through Google Classroom and they were filling in the missing pieces and discussing their answers. However one student said, "If this was shared with all of us we'd be done so much faster."  So in other words, our students already understand the power of collaboration and they are adept with it. That is what Google has taught our 7th and 8th grade.

What we need next from Google is something more. That something more is not just the ability to access the world of information and collaborate with it. We need a way to have a conversation with real experts, beyond the walls of the school, yet within a safe environment. I watched the rollout and fizzle of Google Help Outs. It seemed like such a brilliant plan but it was not integrated where it can make the most difference, in schools.  Imagine if Google were to rebrand it as "Help Out Your School." Experts willing to converse with students, stretch their thinking, collaborate on projects and in general give help to those that need it, when they need it. Students trying to code, trying to engineer something, trying to finish a science experiment and so on, all able to post their need and connect with a person who has that expertise and wants to help students. 

This would take the laborious task off the teacher to try to find an expert to schedule a Google Hangout with. It would take the burden off of parents who don't know all the answers and can't find a friend to help. There is no need for it to be commercialized because many careers encourage helping our youth or doing some type of community outreach. 

I'm sure that Google could find a way to make this work, still be safe, and create a learning community unsurpassed. I certainly would be thrilled to see students not just collaborating with each other, but with someone else beyond the four walls. Think about it, Google.

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