November 5, 2009, 11:45 AM ET
Google Uses Educause Meeting as Focus Group for Wave
Denver -- A panel of Google programmers wearing green T-shirts talked last night about the company's newest product -- called Wave -- but it was clear that they had come here to learn a few things about education.
Wave is a new kind of communication and collaboration service that is so hard to explain that the company usually points people to an hour-and-a-half video to explain how it works. It essentially combines several existing services in one interface -- chat, e-mail, word processing, video and photo sharing, and more.
At one point, a college leader asked the panel from Google if Wave would be compatible with IMS Global standards, which helps education software from various vendors work together. "What's IMS?" said Anna-Christina Douglas, a Google product-marketing manager. "That's why we're here," she added, noting that the group hoped to make the service more useful to the education community. A member of the audience shouted out that she should "Google it."
Much of the discussion focused on what kinds of things Wave could do to help in the teaching process.
Oren Sreebny, director of emerging technology at the University of Washington, said that right now many professors are using a mix of free Web tools in their courses, from YouTube to photo-sharing sites like Flickr, but that it can be confusing to tell students to create accounts on all of those different services. "One of the exciting things about Wave is it brings the possibility of bringing it all back in one place without imprisoning it in a box like in so many course-management systems," he said, to applause by some of the audience.
The company created a Google group for Educause members who want to talk about their experiences with Wave, and they took notes about last night's meeting in a Wave that anyone can look at. Well, anyone with a Google Wave account. The service is still in a preview mode, meaning that only a limited number of people have been allowed in. At the end of the session, Google asked audience members to stand in line, and the Google officials handed out cards granting an invitation to preview the service.