Raising the Next Generation with Google Docs

weeklyreader2.jpgGoogle 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.

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Comments (2)
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  • Next gen­er­a­tion word pro­cess­ing? Yes, this is most cer­tain­ly an oppor­tu­ni­ty for google to expose kids to their web-based word pro­cess­ing soft­ware. What will be inter­est­ing to watch is how instruc­tion changes over time with the avail­abil­i­ty of such free resources. I’ver per­son­al­ly used google docs for a num­ber of per­son­al and pro­fes­sion­al projects, and can only imag­ine how stream­lined it could make the eval­u­a­tion process for instruc­tors who choose to use it in their lan­guage arts and writ­ing class­es to grade papers, hand out assign­ments, and encour­age peer review activ­i­ties. Palo Alto High teacher Esther Woj­ci­c­ki (see http://www.usatoday.com/tech/products/2006–12-03-google-education_x.htm) is a good exam­ple of the pos­si­bil­i­ties.

  • Dan Colman says:

    A lit­tle elab­o­ra­tion on Esther Woj­ci­c­ki is per­haps deserved. Google was found­ed in the garage of one of her daugh­ters, and the daugh­ter went on to be a major play­er at the com­pa­ny; her oth­er daugh­ter went on to mar­ry Sergey Brin. All of this makes her not your aver­age Palo Alto school teacher.

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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.