Google Wave..so near and yet…..

I’ve spent since last week and most of the weekend using Wave, trying different aspects and adding extensions/gadgets and generally trying to see where and how I might use it within a learning context, especially with students.  I started  a Macbeth Wave which had notes and maps and gadgets etc all linked to Act 1 Scene1. I was most impressed BUT it still doesn’t quite get it…

Problems:

Seeing people editing in real time as you try to add stuff or links is off putting and also distracts from the business at hand – getting the links on for example. There really needs to be an edit mode whereby one can write things such as this blog post offline or even online but hidden UNTIL you press ‘Done’.

Twice this weekend I lost all my Waves. My page came up, folders and contacts all there but not a Wave to be seen. Refreshing didn’t work, log in out was also no good. If the servers struggle with only the initial 100,000 plus their invitees (say around 1 million in total) then how do they expect to gain adherents when out of Beta and available to all. What’s twitter nowadays? 13 million tweets a day? And twitter struggles every other day to keep up. Think how much Wave must struggle with real time editing and all the other available ‘goodies’.

Security is a major problem. Anyone can basically join your wave or add you to Waves. I await the first case of some student adding his teacher to the ’14 year old girls are nice’ Wave or jumping into a Wave on Shakespeare and writing “Macbeth was a Scottish pouf” or suchlike. Such lack of control or access is going to cause all sorts of ructions and make teachers think twice. At least with a wiki you can either control access AND see who has edited what. Waves show what is happening with ‘Replay’ but the person editing may not actually be who you think they are. Profiles are surveyed by people on most sites such as Twitter and Facebook et al to at least enable them to have some idea of who is behind the avatar. Wave doesn’t let you do that which to my mind makes it not only unsafe for our students but teachers also.

The problem with all these people diving into a Wave then causes another problem; it is jolly albeit cheerfully chaotic. Anarchy on the web…hang on….

Add to that the VERY steep learning curve and you get people struggling for a long time to understand and then apply what they think Wave could be used for only to find that it won’t actually do that any more efficiently than say a blog or a wiki. The sheer number of Waves you get signed up for by well meaning friends is going to add to the sense of confused overload I experienced this weekend.

Whilst writing this list out I was pointed (Cheers John) to an article called 10 Complaints about Google Wave and I was amused/amazed to see how similar some of my points and those made by Rob Hill for example on myt test wave were. The link adds more about there being a need to have permissions at all levels to secure things AND that whilst we are all busy learning to use Wave and working out what it is for, then our productivity will suffer.It also makes a major point about Waves being in XML not HTML which makes it difficult to add gadgets etc.

We need to perhaps take a step back, wait for the problems to be resolved AND also have more people on board. I will go ahead and produce a Wave Guide for staff and students (nearly done) but methinks I’ll take that step back and wait until the problems have been resolved.

On the other hand there are potential uses within education and these should be grabbed ONCE Wave is out of Beta and available to all.  One example list (shown below) I found had some other school implementations that could be possible but also I also think could be achieved with better sites or offline software

  1. Curriculum planning
  2. Departmental communications (Email IM)
  3. Intercampus  (what?)
  4. Plan parent conferences with multiple teachers and multiple schedules (security problems will mean parental secrets won’t be so secret)
  5. Share links to web resources  (delic.io.us etc do this much better)
  6. Campus improvement planning
  7. Schoolwide calendar/scheduling  (Outlook, Google calendars already good enough etc)
  8. Faculty meeting follow-up
  9. Teacher appraisal sign-ups
  10. To-do lists
  11. Keep information current between work, cell, and home
  12. School newspaper/newsletter article development
  13. Local newspaper publicity article development  (Only works if local press use Wave)
  14. Twitter-like communication between faculty without the Twitter-like time drain
  15. Share lesson plans with substitutes/administrators/department chairs/other teachers

Besides the school-related uses, I can imagine some others:

  1. Collaborative book study (I’ve started a Bible study with friends this way – copy a chapter or so, add friends to the wave, add some comments/links/videos)
  2. Group blogging (WordPress Multi Users MUCH better)
  3. List of music educators (this could also include math teachers, administrators, whatever)
  4. Storing favourite web resources in one central searchable location (the archive is an amazing feature of Gmail)

19 educational uses


Another site:

And how could it be used in my classroom?
Here are some of the uses I can see

  • Replace wikis
    I know a lot of teachers out there use wikis, and they are useful. I like the functionality that they pose, but I also know there are some challenges they have. One nice feature of Google Wave is that it allows a combination of public as well as private communication within a wave.
  • Playback
    Ever been absent during an extended group project? Wonder what you missed? The playback function of Google Wave is amazing in that it allows you to see step-by-step what has happened in the development of the wave. This can also come in handy for the teacher to see how well groups are working together and how much participation is going on.
  • Group work
    One of the huge advantages to Google Wave is that each person in the wave can edit things at the same time. We’ve all been in groups where one person writes, another person thinks, and the other people sleep. I also remember some group work on computers where so much time was wasted trying to find the right font. What if Font girl is responsible for making it look pretty, smart guy is responsible for doing research, and keyboarding goober is responsible for typing it all in? Everyone could be assigned a specific role and work on the same project together.
  • Teacher involvement
    The way I see it, each group would be set up by the teacher and each wave would include the teacher as well as the students in the group. One reason I didn’t like group work when I was in school was because I either did way more or way less work than the other people in the group. If an individual student has a complaint for the teacher, he can simply private message the teacher, explain the problem, and then the teacher can view the playback and see that the other students may not be working as hard. Tattling has never been this simple!
  • Publishing (Embedding)
    After a project is completed, it can be embedded into a website or Facebook group page or something. Yes, there are even plugins to embed waves into blog posts (at least for WordPress and Blogger).

So needless to say, I am excited about this new project and looking forward to seeing how I can use it both personally as well as in my teaching. It won’t be an overnight transformation, and I don’t see email being abolished completely, but I do see it as a pivotal point in the development of online communications.

So you want to teach: 5 ways Wave will revolutionize the classroom

There are many more things such as these that I’m sure people are thinking about but I’m now unconvinced that they can’t be achieved with what we already have in terms of sites or software. Every day in twitter for example the likes of Russell Tarlton and Tom Barrett give some links to sites or software that do a specific job to the best of its ability. This I believe, is where Wave is falling down from the outset; it is trying to be all things to all men/women (ahem!) I’m still a bit confused as to whether it is Instant Messaging with added meatballs, email with additional caffeine or a wiki killer. At the moment the only way Wave will kill off wikis is to slap it to death with a wet haddock whilst calling it names. Such as Cyril….

If you want a Wave 101 (a very good introduction) go here to the Lifehacker site.

In conclusion (for now!) I WILL keep any eye on Wave, keep trying to use it for different things but until they resolve the various things above (and there are more problems coming out daily) then I won’t get excited about educational possibilities. I fell for the hype and I am ashamed…..I hang my head in abject apology and pound my manly chest whilst crying ‘mea culpa! mea culpa! I’m away to edit my new wiki on poetry for Int 2 😎

Thoughts anyone?

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