Image by Monica A. via FlickrGoogle Wave is opening to the public soon. Even before it is out of the gate, there are pronouncements on what it is and is not good for. And since this is an education blog, I want to look a little at the teaching and learning side to this. One of the the great things about education technology is that the best educational technology never starts out as "educational;" the technology is always designed for some other use and a couple of educators figure things out like how to turn a spreadsheet into a writing rubric that inserts comments into student papers at the click of a button. Or that the AI routine in someone's R2-D2 in a virtual Star Wars world can be re-purposed in a medical simulation. That is why I think pronoucements about how Google Wave will be used are a little premature. There are a lot of tools in Google Wave and extensions and mash-ups yet to be created. Two things that are important to me as an instructional designer in all of his are the collaboration and play back feature. Collaboration is an essential to online learning. The level of interactivity in collaborative learning is unmatched by the typical "online textbook" model of online classes. We are already using Google Apps in classes. The collaborative functionality built into those, combined with email, and chat tools will make Google Wave a very powerful tool. The play back feature - the ability to play back the history of the the collaboration, will be useful for students for reviewing course content. Instructional designers can leverage this feature by scaffolding how a wave is constructed (or how information is brought into a wave) with this in mind. This is a new way of thinking about design. The play back feature will also give us new ways to research online interaction and collaboration. We will be able to measure in real time where things work and where they don't; when students run into trouble and when they "get it."
Collaborative tools are a great opportunity for giving back to control and responsibility for education back to the students. The collective intelligence of an entire class is pretty good at finding and sharing the information they need to be successful; especially if that class is facilitated by someone modeling critical networking skills. The combination of tools in Google Wave seems to enable that.
I will be more excited by the translation tools after seeing them in action. The rest of the tools have all been tested by us in other places, on other platforms - the brilliant thing is bringing them all together. The real genius comes in seeing how a network of teachers, students, and designers will use it in the end.