Like many in my PLN, I lusted over Google Wave invites for weeks and finally received one of my own. Unlike some, however, I have begun to see the great potential that this tool has to bring positive change into my classroom. I have seen its drawbacks and missing features and I am ignoring them (for now). Instead I am focused on the ways in which this tool (a “multimodal wiki” in the words of a colleague) could push wikis over the hump into widespread usage.
In my school, I have drilled, demonstrated, and discussed the power of wikis as a tools for asynchronous collaboration between students for years. Despite the fact that the message didn’t always hit home, I was able to reach a few teachers. For some, reluctance came from the lack of real-time collaborative editing of the same page and the idea of “another tool”. Wave’s interface is slick and makes the real-time thing dreamy. And, it’s email-like appearance breaks down some of those barriers to acceptance and use.
Remember how RSS was going to change the way that everyone reads the Web? Somewhere between aggregators and desktop apps, it stopped catching on with the romantic techies. Now, it seems that no matter how many times I describe the way that my feed reader makes my personal learning much more efficient and effective, all I get is eye-rolling. Even an attempt by Google doesn’t seem to have been able to revive the adoption of newsreaders.
And that is where Wave is different. By putting collaboration in our inboxes and making synchronous document collaboration beautiful and easy, Google may have found a way (open source, no less) to push wikis into the mainstream. I have been showing off Wave to as many of my non-techie teacher friends as I can, and there is definitely a spark of interest and curiosity that might be enough to fuel a transformation.
Yes, Google Wave is in private alpha testing right now, so it’s not ready for prime time. But when it is, I hope that the users I work with (teachers, students, and administrators) can see how simple and meaningful group learning can be with the help of modern technology.