Posts Tagged ‘google’

Introducing USQ’s Google Student Ambassador: David Webb

Wednesday, May 9th, 2012
Google logo on building

Google is producing some innovative tools for use in higher education

In this edition of the ADFI blog, I am interviewing David Webb, the USQ representative for Google’s Student Ambassador Program. David is currently studying Engineering (with a computer systems major) at USQ. He also works part time for a telecommunications company in Toowoomba.  

1. What is the most useful Google product for external and/or on campus students?

Google Docs for both external and on-campus students. Google Docs allows the user to move between different computers and places and still have their assignments (as long as an internet connection is available) on hand. Google Docs is invaluable for group assignments, as it allows everyone to work on the live version and edit a piece of work at the same time.

Google Books is a great tool for searching a particular book. It is very useful for undergraduate students who are required to use only credible and relevant books (not articles from Wikipedia) when working on assignments. Google Scholar, by contrast, is useful for finding articles. The two yield the best results when used interchangeably.

2. How might a lecturer use any Google product to increase interaction between students?

To facilitate virtual office hours, particularly for external students. Google+ hangouts can be used to chat with up to ten students at one time, thus facilitating student interaction. One fancy feature of the tool is its ability to shift the video to the person who is talking with minimal delay. Hangouts on air allow 1-10 people to video chat and an unlimited number of people to watch. This could be used for a forum or online conference, for example.

3. Why were you interested in becoming a Google Student Ambassador?

In the early 2000s, I changed from MSN to Google search. I started using Google products (Gmail was one of the first and is, incidentally, the email platform used by USQ’s students), instantly liked the company and, in particular, their vision for giving away products with minimal and unobtrusive advertising. When the opportunity to be a Google Student Ambassador arose, I jumped at the opportunity to work with the company.

4. What does this role entail?

There are four key points:

  • Learn about innovative Google products and programs;
  • Plan and host fun events on campus;
  • Act as a campus contact for Google teams;
  • Help Google better understand each University’s culture.

5. Are there any upcoming events that you would like to mention?

I hope to run an introductory session for both USQ students and staff on what Google’s Student Ambassador Program is all about.

In order to showcase the application of Google tools for learning and teaching, we have asked David to contribute a monthly blog to the Digital Futures Website. Once a month, David will select a Google product and provide a detailed analysis of its functions and possible uses in higher education.

Dr Amy Antonio 

Image: Robert Scoble,  Google Logo in Building 43 used under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic Licence.

Google+: the building blocks for collaboration

Friday, September 2nd, 2011
Lego blocks

From Gmail to Google Docs and now Google+, Google is increasingly offering a suite of resources which make collaboration easier.

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then it appears that the newly emerged Google+ has some worthy features.  When Facebook announced last week that their Privacy Settings would be updated so that users could control who had access to their posts, it was clear that the G+ Circle idea had found a new home.

The notion of organising one’s contacts, friends and family into different communication streams was enough reason for me to check out this newest entrant to the social media market.  The problem I’d always had with Facebook centred on identity.  The person I present at work is very different to who I am with my family and who I am with my friends.  I simply didn’t want my work colleagues or my family seeing (or participating) in conversations with friends (and vice versa).  This isn’t inherently duplicitous, but when your Circles become a Venn diagram, there are possible negative ramifications.  News stories centring on Facebook in the workplace have identified some of these issues.

Google+ offers the opportunity to group all of your contacts under any heading you like, as the Circles are customisable.  If you’re working on a project, simply create a new Circle with the project title as the heading, drag and drop the participants into the Circle icon and start communicating.  If colleagues don’t have a Gmail account, you can still add them, and they’ll receive any Google+ posts to their email account instead.

Google’s strength is being revealed as a collaborative tool.  From Gmail, to Google Documents and now Google+, there are emerging possibilities, especially for universities which assess teamwork and groupwork assignments.  Students are able to post their thoughts in real time, respond to the work of others in their Circle, post links to interesting and relevant material and even create a Skype-like video conference (called a ‘Hangout’).

Most Learning Management Systems do have the capacity to create ‘break-out’ rooms or their equivalent.  However, due to the administration issues of course sites, these often need to be created by the lecturer, which can be perceived by students as forcing them to use tools that might not be intuitive or of their choosing.  Google+, by comparison, has a very gentle learning curve.

Allowing students to use other collaborative tools (such as Dropbox) empowers them to find solutions and critically engage with collaborative technologies.  Whilst most assessment will incorporate a student reflection on the teamwork experience, how many specifically ask students to reflect on their choice of tools (or give them a chance to share that knowledge with their peers – and the lecturer)?  Given the sheer number of options, selecting the ‘right tool for the right job’ is not only a skill for university, but one that is critical to workforce success.

Google+ has, in some circles been neglected due to its Beta status.  Bear in mind though, that Google Scholar was in beta since its launch in October 2004 and the ‘Beta’ tag was only removed this year.  Given that the current estimates place the number of users of Google+ at well over one million users (after only six weeks), it is gaining traction and the possibilities, especially for education, are increasing.

Adrian Stagg – Learning Technologist (Co-Pilot)

Image credit: NickPiggottLego bricks ,used under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic Licence.