Google announced earlier this week that it has partnered with Weekly Reader, a producer of educational materials for children since 1928, to help teach "collaborative writing" to young students in the US. The concept here is fairly straightforward. Using Google Docs (a web-based word processor) and its new revision features, students "can work together from different computers to write and revise the same paper," which helps drive home the point that writing is a process that "encourages multiple revisions and peer editing."
This announcement is not exactly a headline grabber, certainly not the kind that we're used to seeing come out of Googleplex. But we find it worth mentioning for a couple of reasons. For starters, Google Docs is handy for adults too. The free product lets you write and edit docs from any location. So you can draft a document at work and then edit it from home, or you can have a colleague in the next office, or thousands of miles away, make changes to the document as well. It's a good freebie. And we actually use it to plan the writing of Open Culture.
Next there is this fact to note: The deal with Weekly Reader almost feels like pro bono work. But then you remember that Google is a public company hellbent on growth, and the wheels start turning, and you start to see the Weekly Reader deal a little differently. It's an opportunity for thousands of kids -- tomorrow's consumers -- to be exposed to Google Docs, a product that will inevitably mature and one day rival Microsoft Word. A new generation will get comfortable using web-based software to do their word processing, which puts Microsoft's high-margin software business at risk ... deeply at risk. You can get more information on the collaborative writing project here.
Or access our general collection of university podcasts here.