Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Google is your friend

I know there are those among us who lack my love for all things Google. Sure, it shows our kids ads, keeps track of the searches coming out of our buildings, displays naughty thumbnails that only the best of content filters can block, most kids don’t look beyond the first three hits (two of which are usually sponsored), etc., etc.

Sure, that’s all true, but Google is a lot more than search. I don’t think I’m off base in saying that Google provides the largest, free set of Web 2.0 tools available to the general public, meaning that our users can access them at home or school and generally across platforms (including Linux in most cases). One of our after-school programs is taking digital pictures of various flora and fauna out in the woods, uploading the pictures into Picasa, capturing the location at which the pictures were taken using a GPS, and then “geotagging” that location in Google Earth.

This says nothing of Google Docs, Blogger, Knol, Sites, calendaring, SketchUp, and more. As much as kids like Facebook, it’s important to understand the real value of Web 2.0 technologies for social, academic, and professional collaboration. I maintain that kids will get more out of blogging about a field trip and being able to add thoughts and comments to their peers’ blogs than they would by writing an essay about the field trip.

Want to create an online photo album or website about the field trip? How about take a survey that dumps data in a Google spreadsheet about kids’ favorite parts of the field trip? Create an online presentation and then interact live with digital pen pals while they watch the presentation? All possible for free with Google.

Don’t kill Google because of some naughty 1″x1″ pictures. Let the teachers be responsible for enforcing school policy and turn on Safe Search. Instead, use Google for everything it offers beyond a pretty fine search engine.

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