Google Plus is here!
This is the tool that’s going to revolutionize education. It’s a collaborative platform with none of the social baggage of that evil Facebook. It allows people to easily organize their friends into circles, so you can keep your professional, personal, and academic lives separate from one another. The image sharing features are very nice, especially when coupled with the mobile phone app. And the hangouts… have you tried the hangouts? Click a button, and you can have up to 10 people in a simultaneous video chat. Try doing that with Facebook. Heck, try doing that with Skype.
As a teacher, it’s safe to friend students now. I can just put them in their own circle. I just have to make sure that the things I post to that circle are school-appropriate. I can still have fun with my friends and be embarrassed by my family, and the students will never see any of that stuff. And that knife cuts both ways. Students can shelter their teachers and parents from some of the content that they probably don’t want to see.
Then, again, maybe this is just another fad. It’s the new shiny. Remember the old shiny? Everyone was talking about tablet computers, and how they were going to be transformational in education. That was soooo 2010. And before that, netbooks were going to change the world. And Kindles, before we figured out how badly they suck at doing anything but displaying text.
For a while, wireless networks were going to change everything. Some people even talked about not bothering to wire new schools with network cabling, because we weren’t going to need it. Once every kid has a laptop, everything will be wireless. That’s really going to transform education.
Student response systems used to be all the rage. In some places, they still are. I can put a question up on the SMART Board and students can enter their answers on their individual remote controls. I can then see the results right there in my software. That’s a great short-cycle assessment. It’s so much better than having the students raise their hands in answer to a question.
Speaking of SMART Boards, they’ve really changed education. We have them in just about every classroom now. The teacher can use four colors of digital ink to write on the board, and the whole thing can be saved and posted online. There are also lots of interactive activities in the accompanying software that let 25 kids watch one kid interact with the board while the teacher stands comfortably at the front of the room.
Transformational change doesn’t come from gadgets. I’m beginning to think that transformational change is actually impossible in the public schools because of the societal and cultural traditions surrounding how schools are “supposed” to work. Parents tend to get upset if their kids aren’t taught the same way they were taught. Just ask a math teacher who has lived through a transition to Everyday Math or Investigations. Change doesn’t come easily.
Real progress comes in smaller steps. As we’ve added technology over the last generation or so, we’ve also changed the pedagogy quite a bit. We’re using more cooperative and participatory strategies to keep our students engaged. We’re addressing multiple intelligences. We’re using authentic assessments. We’re starting to use frameworks like UBD to ensure that our instruction is actually tied to the objectives we’re trying to meet. None of these things require technology. They do require teachers with open minds, principals who aren’t afraid of change, and schools who are willing to let go of some of the traditions in order to improve our students’ future.
Google Plus might help us do that. But it probably won’t. Next month, there will be another new shiny.
Photo credit: Shiny! by SFDenverLV on Flickr.