5 Ways Google Should Change Education

By AJ Juliani, 7 comments

Google changes everything. And, everything is going to change because of Google. There is no other company (except maybe Tesla and SpaceX) that I have more trust in to change the world. Yet, while many of us use Google everyday for things like search and email…we may not know exactly what Google is working on for the future.

I became fixated on Google after my students started their “20% projects” based on Google’s workplace structure. It changed my classroom for the better, and also helped me reach a new group of teachers who were just as interested in inquiry-based learning as I was. I’ve learned more about teaching and learning in the past two years because of that simple change in my classroom…than anything else.

So, I’m indebted to Google. But don’t get me wrong. I’m not “Mr. Google”. Most of the technology products I own are Apple-made and my school is running a Microsoft 1:1 initiative. However, I have no trust in either of those companies to change education like Google can.

Based on what I’ve read and researched about Google’s current and future products, here are five ways I’d change (and improve) education if I worked at Google and had their resources at my disposal:

1. Free internet for everyone. Free devices for students and teachers.

This isn’t that far out. You are reading this on some internet powered device, but two-thirds of the world’s population is still without internet access. Google’s Project Loon is a new venture that tackles rural and remote areas in dire need of internet access. Recorded Future explains how it all works:

By connecting a large network of high-altitude balloons and straddling them on the Earth’s stratosphere. The ambitious project, earning a successful prototype already, started on June 30, 2013 on the outskirts of New Zealand’s South Island of Christchurch and Canterbury. Traveling at speeds of 20KM, the balloons would be guided by capable software algorithms and the Earth’s natural layer of winds to create a huge network capable of bouncing signals to the antenna (belonging to the consumer) below and back.

To appease the minds of tech-junkies, the balloons are made of polyethylene plastic capable of withstanding high pressure altitudes (15m wide: 12m tall) and are powered by electronic units through solar-powered panels (100W of energy); one single balloon can cover an area of 40KM, delivering internet speeds comparable to 3G networks!

This is happening right now, and Google has already been providing internet access to places like Kansas City. If I worked at Google I’d go a step further and give free devices to all students and teachers. Why? Well companies like the New York-based Media Development Investment Fund are also planning on launching 150 miniature satellites into low Earth orbit beginning in June 2015.

Google can win the battle (if there even is one) for global internet access control by giving it’s up-and-coming consumers (students) their devices. Maybe Google doesn’t want to go that far…but I’d make it happen if I worked there.

2. Quantify the learning process. Using data for everything.

Google has more data than any company (or even government) in world. And they are great at using this data to solve big problems. I’m a firm believer that our use of standardized assessments is because we don’t have the right data to analyze the teaching and learning process.

If I worked at Google I’d change this. I’d analyze all of the current information we already have on students. Their past performances, their socio-economic background, the different teachers they’ve had throughout their schooling, etc (the list could go on for a long time). Then I’d use this data to see what type of learning environment they learn best in. What type of teachers are able to challenge them effectively. What type of learning activities they have succeeded in and what type of learning activities they struggled with (or gave little effort). This is the type of data we can be using to really impact the learning process…but we either don’t have all of it now, or we aren’t using it effectively. Imagine if Google gave it’s resources to a company like BrightBytes…the data-driven results would be amazing.

This also applies for teachers, administrators, and entire school systems. If this sounds scary then maybe you aren’t doing your job. Because every teacher that is working hard for their students to succeed in the learning process knows that it is not enough to have “one test result” to measure our impact and how students are succeeding.

3. Change the funding structure for schools

This builds on #2 a bit.

If I worked at Google I would help fund schools so they could be more innovative. Each year Google donates, $100,000,000 IN GRANTS, 60,000 HOURS, and $1 BILLION IN PRODUCTS. I’d help funnel a lot of those donations to schools for innovative programs, maker spaces, and labs. This way low-income school don’t have to rely solely on the federal government to get much needed funding.

Then I’d go a step further and reward those schools, teachers, and students who used the funds to actually “do something”. Use it well…and you’ll keep getting more. None of the funding would be tied to assessments, but instead projects, and actual work being done in the school.

4. Create Moonshot Academies all over the world

Google is a company that prides itself on “solving for <x>” and taking technological moonshots. Their site Solve For X explains this idea:

Solve For X is a place to hear about and discuss radical technology ideas for solving global problems. Radical in the sense that the solutions could help millions or billions of people. Radical in the sense that the audacity of the proposals makes them sound like science fiction. And radical in the sense that there is some real technology breakthrough on the horizon indicating that these ideas could really be brought to life.

This combination of things – a Huge Problem to solve, a Radical Solution for solving it, and Breakthrough Technology to make it happen – is the essence of a technology moonshot.

Let’s bring this huge idea to schools all over the world. I’d help to create “Moonshot Academies” that connect students from different areas together to work on huge ideas. They could then collaborate with other “Moonshot Academies” to expand and grow.

Here is the best part: Each year students would have an opportunity to pitch their ideas to Google. Best pitches get real funding!

5. Grow Helpouts into a live 24/7 anytime learning platform

If you haven’t heard about Google Helpouts, the premise is simple: Real time help from people in real-time. For me, my mind immediately went to how this could help students who were doing inquiry-based research and work.

Students who are looking for more information and mentorship, can use Google Helpouts to find an expert and ask the questions that only a human could answer.

I’d take this a step further. Google can have a true 24/7 online learning platform from students who want real-time feedback and advice. Have questions about that science project? Go to Helpouts. Want a quick review of your latest essay? Go to Helpouts. Want to go into more depth about a topic you just learned about in class? Go to Helpouts.

In essence, Helpouts would be the real-time/real-person search engine that Google already is for static information.

In the process of writing this article I’ve already thought about new ways I’d change education (if I worked for Google), but I’d like to hear your thoughts. How would you change and improve education with all of Google’s resources at your fingertips?!

Photo Credit: jurvetson via Compfight cc

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