Google Wave for Teachers: A Concept

(note: this is a guest post from Mike Kirk, one of the winners in a contest we recently held)

Google Wave EDLast month, Google announced beta for an upcoming product called Wave which the tech giant refers to as “what e-mail would look like if it were invented today”. By that they mean a communications system with all of the acquired knowledge of the 21st century without the hang-ups of the 20th. For detailed info you should really check out the official Google Wave site, but I’ll try to keep the pre-required knowledge to a minimum here.

So what on earth does this have to do with education? Google is inventing this to revolutionize communication and productivity, which has essentially been stagnant for decades if not longer. E-mail, as one example, is sent back and forth between one or more people just as the letter or the memorandum was before it. Wave basically breaks that wide open, offering contextual live editing of a single communiqué. Now, while this can certainly help in productivity in a classroom just like it could help any general office task, the overall Wave concepts could be applied on a grander scale for educators.

The Way Things are for Teachers

The teaching process has remained largely unchanged in over hundreds of years. While technology may have advanced the way we do things, it hasn’t really affected what we are doing. Let’s take a look at the chart below. This is the basic process of teaching as it is today the way it has been for decades.

Instruction ProcessWhether you teach kindergarten or AP classes, these steps are all required. The teacher is responsible for teaching a subject to a learner. A teacher may have a curriculum or a textbook, but I feel that these tools are passive when it comes to twenty-first century instruction. An effective teacher will bring in outside ideas from co-teachers, mentors, administrators, parents and finally students. From each unique perspective a lesson plan should be enriched as a final outcome.

In general, these perspectives all happen in different places and are given by different people. Co- teachers and administrators can be in different buildings offering different viewpoints. Parents can be concerned at work or at home about getting their voice heard. Mentors can be giving great advice online nationwide or even worldwide. A technology minded teacher would need a tool to bring all of these voices together.
I believe we can look to Google Wave for some of the answers.

The Way Things Could Be for Teachers

Google is trying to get users to wrap their heads around this idea of a wave, which is basically the digital equivalent of a blank white board. In the wave, you can write correspondence, view documents or pictures, incorporate data from other web sources do all kinds of other things that would be available to a group of people sitting around a conference table. Let’s take that idea of a blank space or a wave in which a teacher can do productive work with others.

Teacher Wave Concept

This potential for communication and collaboration would be a game changer for teacher. So many branches, you probably don’t even know where to start. It’s simple, every idea and step passes through the wave. Everyone has a voice that can be heard and responded to equally.

Google Wave is currently built to aid all kinds of text editing, namely e-mail and chat. If you look at that wave with the idea of lesson plans as an ongoing project, you should be able to gather input and feedback over a wave. Teachers can share their expertise in their subjects to include in other classes, such as research paper writing in English class to a lab report in Science class. In Google’s tech demo, once one user dragged files into the wave, a preview of the files appeared in another user’s wave. This same idea could work for sharing educational video and classroom photos.

Why go to all of this trouble?

Effective teaching and learning are collaborative processes. A teacher can elicit help from others to construct effective lesson plans. As I said earlier, so many people are working in so many different places with one common goal in mind. Why not move the tools needed to achieve that common goal into the same space? Google is specifically asking people to come up with innovative ways to take advantage of the technology they have on offer. In time, I believe that the education community will benefit directly from this web application.


  1. Nathanael Parson says:

    I completely agree with this post. I too believe that Google Wave will be a game changer for education. The age old lecture format must go and students must be given the freedom to find answers to their own questions using the collaborative knowledge of the world via the internet. Education needs to move away from a teacher being the vessel of knowledge. The teacher should be the guide who shows and demonstrates through examples how to utilize the technology around us to open our minds and find our passions.

    I think José A. Bowen, a dean of the Meadows School of the Arts, has the right idea when tells his students to save the classroom time for discussion only. He believes students should be allowed to find their own answers and then when they come back to school the time is focused on reviewing what they learned and sharing ideas for information retrieval.

    Nathanael Parson
    Language Arts and Social Studies Teacher
    The American School of Guadalajara, Mexico

  2. Cynthia Tan says:

    Just what I was looking for! Was fortunate to have a friend offer an invite to me, and the first thing that struck me when I explored it was the potential of Google Wave being used in education, as well as for the professional development of teachers. From the perspective of being an early childhood educator, Google is now providing a wonderful platform for collaboration amongst educators. Definitely, it implies that the education community will need to examine beliefs about teaching and fundamentals of learning. We’ll also need to recognize importance of professional development, as well as the collaboration with families and colleagues in empowering learning, before the community can truly benefit from Google’s creation. Google Wave has paved the way for technology to be meaningfully used and hopefully, there will be greater emphasis placed on teacher education programmes where teachers are guided to become more competent and confident users of technology.

    (Shared your link on my page @

  3. Ellen Sears says:

    My students love our wiki and blog, so I can see where I could incorporate Google Wave into my classroom. I do like seeing the changes and discussions embedded within a Wave, adding images and documents, inviting individuals as well as the ability for several people editing at the same time. I do wish that I could create logins and passwords for my students without requiring an email account… my students are 12 and 13 and still need to be sheltered from the ‘real world’ while they learn about digital citizenship.
    The things I love about our wiki is that everyone does have a voice, and it offers time for reflection. I can also monitor all discussions and moderate, mediate and highlight great critiques so everyone can learn from them.
    For teachers and administrators? Teachers at our school find email a challenge. And so does the principal. Our tech guy doesn’t like the idea of cloud computing. Does that paint a picture for you?
    PS – I don’t really agree with your flow chart for education. Sounds like what the majority of classrooms are even today…

  4. Florida EnglishDoc says:

    Sounds great–if we can get the technology necessary to support it. I’m not trying to be a naysayer, but at our school we have to sign up for time in the media center/computer lab. The most I can get it seems to be a couple times a year. I have a website with message boards for my kids, but some of them don’t even have internet access at home….

    If only I had millions of dollars to spend on education–that’s where I’d start.

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