Random Thoughts

Google I/O Reflection

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Now I have admitted before that I am a google fan boy. I love Google, I love their products, I love the way they take risks in development, I love the future they are trying to make a reality. So it should be no surprise that on Wednesday I prepared myself for the 3 hour Keynote that kicked off Google I/O Developers Conference this year. The conference has now ended and it is time to write my own reflection on the event and how I think this all relates to education.

Let’s start with the educational announcements:

Facts from the above video:

Google Apps

  • 25 Million educational users all around the world
  • In the US, 74 of the top 100 Universities use Google Apps and 7 of the 8 Ivy League Universities use Google Apps.

Love that they released these figures as just two weeks ago I had an IT Director tell me students still needed to know how to use Word as that was the standard. According to Google itself over 5 million businesses use Google Apps. What this tells me is platform no longer should be the focus. Wordprocessing the skill should be.

It’s Google’s Job to Fix It

Now I understand that this is Google trying to sell a product. But really isn’t that exactly what we hear educational institutions say? If only it was easier, faster and of course cheaper. What I love is Google is taking on those challenges and is continuing to try and knock down the barriers of technology in the classroom. At some point educational institutions will run out of reasons not to fully integrate technology. The only reason that will be left is fear….and fear is no way to run a school.

Google Play Store for Education

Two things here that make this a game changer:

1) The easy of use to volume purchase an app for a school/district or classroom.

2) No syncing of devices or management needed. The next time the device connects to wifi the new app, books or the video is instantly downloaded to the device. This is HUGE and those of you who are in charge of managing iPads in schools know just how huge this is. No need to sync, no need for one computer to manage all the iPads. Just buy and done. WOW!

Of coures this is a direct shot at the iPad. The question I have is, are they too late? No school that has invested in iPads is going to change to Android. Not for a long while anyway so I am left wondering just how much effect this will have. There are some schools that are going with Nexus 7 tablets and for them this is a big announcement for sure. But we’ll have to wait and see if this actually brings new schools to the Android platform.

I will say though that you put a ChromeBook with a Nexus 10 device and you are in a 2 to 1 situation for about $650 per student. That is very very tempting. If I am starting a new school tomorrow I would have to seriously way this against the MacBook Air and iPad combination that is about $1400. There is a huge savings cost there. That along might put Google in the game of education.

Google Search

If you haven’t seen the demonstration of what is coming to the Chrome Browser than you need to watch this. How does this change the classroom?

Honestly this to me was the biggest announcement of the three hour keynote. One of the big things I focus on in all my talks is how search is THE skill of our time. If there is one thing that everyone should know how to do today it is to know how to search. Not “find stuff” but really search the web for meaningful information. What they showed of course is pretty basic but this is just the beginning for sure. This is going to be a game changer.

If I were a 4th grade teacher today (which if I went back into the classroom is where I would go) I would start next school year by buying a ChromeBook setting it up in my classroom and would have it be always open to Chrome. Over the computer would be a sign that says “Ask Me Anything”. We would use the computer throughout the day to answer our questions, to see if we could stump it, to see what information we could “find” and what information did we need to “search” for. How would the classroom change if Google was your teaching partner? How would your teaching change? How does learning change?

google-io-2013Lastly…something that I’m still working through, is over the last two days I have listened to some of the other presentations and more than once developers have been talking about the “On Demand Generation“. That this generation (meaning all of us living right now) are more and more expecting things to happen when we want them to. We want our TV shows when we want to watch them, we want our music when we want to listen, we want our information when we want it, and we want directions now and based on the latest traffic information available. What about weather and my ability last week to know exactly when to quit playing golf for a 30 minute rain delay as the storm passed overhead. We are expecting it as a society and developers are focusing on it. This is what is coming; the ability to get anything we want “On Demand”.

I keep thinking about this and how does this change everything about education? An education system that was built over a hundred years ago on the premise of “Just in Case”? If we can literally learn anything “On Demand” then education has to change. It can not survive a world where there is no “Just in Case”. We need new skills, we need new knowledge. We need to be able to learn, unlearn and relearn quickly and we need to be comfortable always being a beginner.

What are your thoughts? What does school look like if we are preparing an “On Demand Generation” for their future?

I started blogging in 2005 and found it such a powerful way to reflect and share my thinking about technology, this generation, and how we prepare students for their future not our past.


  1. Jeff Layman Reply

    Hi Jeff,

    In terms of “On Demand” vs. “Just in case” education, where/when do you think students will learn about the things that are becoming automated?

    Take Celsius vs. Fahrenheit conversion, for example. Teaching abroad for the first time this year has been a wonderful learning opportunity, but I’d be lying if I told you I’ve mastered the C to F conversion. What I have mastered is typing it into the omnibox of the Chrome browser on my iPad. I accept that mentally calculating this isn’t fast enough until I become comfortable with the temperatures, but my question is this:

    When will kids learn this, if it becomes automated in the future? If they don’t learn it, will this information continue to exist? If it does exist, where?

    • An interesting inquiry Jeff-

      The question is- do they have to know anymore? That is, if it is possible to obtain the answer via ominbox, then should you/we/they have to know how to figure it out on their own- or can that time that that was set aside for learning that particular skill now be used for something else- something new or non-traditional? (like coding for instance)

      • Jeff Layman Reply

        I’m definitely with you on whether or not they NEED to know it anymore. Honestly, they don’t. But there’s loads of information that will fall by the wayside in the future and I’m wondering what will become of it.

        Somewhere there’s a programmer that writes the code for the omnibox and the calculations it has to go through in order to pop that answer up for you. In the future, if that programmer hasn’t learned it because it’s automated, where/when does he learn it? I’m not sure it has an answer, but it mystifies and fascinates me to think about 🙂

        • Jeff Utecht Reply

          You learn it when you want/need to. That to me is the switch. If you know how you learn, and how to learn. Then you learn things when you’re ready.

          …so what are the essential skills students need to know how they learn and how to learn and how to we practice those skills in school?

    • Alisa Scudamore Reply

      This reminds me of the industrial revolution when artists launched the Arts and Crafts movement to preserve the virtuosity of craftsmanship. To this day, darkroom photography and traditional pottery are taught in many schools. While I love this connection to the origins of craft, I often wondered–while dumping darkroom chemicals and rebalancing enlargers after class–if preserving these almost obsolete skills is really worth it. It was pretty split among my students. Some loved the darkroom, and others asked why weren’t we digital. After many years and jobs dedicated to darkroom photography, I never dreamed that I’d be pitching an all-digital photography program to my administrators. The fact is, film photography is too expensive and materials are hard to come by. Yet again, digital technology has provided cheaper and easier access to students. While I’ll miss the darkroom, I won’t miss dumpster diving for old cameras at Goodwill. Or the price tag attached.

      I’m ready to bite the bullet–like the rest of humanity–and forget fahrenheit, yards, and inches altogether. Let’s leave that legacy to a paragraph in the history e-books, and have a good laugh that we were once stubbornly non-metric.

      So my guess is, this kind of obsolete information will live on in some historical record (books and museums in today’s world) and probably a handful of people around the world will keep the practice alive for nostalgia.

    • It’s a great question. I can tell you as a nurse, the hospital pharmacy sends medications that are pre-calculated for delivery. I was taught the calculation and responsibility for checking the math. This skills has more than once prevented a tragedy when the pharmacy had miscalculated.

  2. Thank you for this information. It’s useful to hear the Google news through the lens of an educator.

    I’m interested in how the Google Play store will make things easier for teachers using tablet devices. This could be a game changer but I’m pretty sure that Apple has already been working on this angle too.

    I’m toying with the idea of the Chromebook but I am not keen on having a device that is useless without the internet. One day, when wifi is free and ubiquitous throughout the world (soon I’m sure!), it will sound tempting.

    I love my Mac and it would take a lot for me to let go of my iMac and Macbooks for a Chromebook.

    I have both the iPad and an Android tablet. I would have no problems moving to Android for tablet use.

    Thanks again for the useful insight.


  3. These are all exciting steps forward. However, I did not hear one thing from Google or from you Jeff U. addressing the issue of evaluating resources and being critical thinkers and users of the information that Google brings in a search. Not all information available via Google or any search engine for that matter is necessarily reliable, authoritative information that should be used for educational research. This article promotes the typical thinking that every answer that Google spits out is the right one. If we fail to teach our students to be independent, critical thinkers we will end up with a bunch of Google sheep! Google is a business, not a shepherd concerned with the welfare of its sheep.

    • Jeff Utecht Reply

      ….and that right there is why schools still matter. It’s not Googles job to tell you what is right and wrong. In fact every time they do they get push back. So it’s up to us educators to teach these skills.

      What if our curriculum was focused on those skills? What would that look like?

      I don’t think I ever said that Google gives us every right answer. There is still thinking involved and that’s what we need to be teaching. How to think in the world of Google.

      • You did not say that Google gives us every right answer, but nor did you emphasize the evaluation and critical thinking piece. What would that look like? It would involve schools keeping their library media specialists to work with students and staff. This is their area of expertise but money shortages in education have made administrators and state boards of education shortsighted eliminating these jobs from many schools despite the wealth of data showing library media specialist and library programs improve student scores.

        • Jeff Utecht Reply

          Agreed….in this post I didn’t point that fact out. I do talk about that in a lot of my blog posts including the search lesson plans that I created for educators here. Hope this helps!

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