Google Wave is Only Underwhelming Because We Are Educators

google_wave_logo_finalSo after begging and pleading with my PLN on Twitter and submitting no less than five beta requests to Google (including one telling them that I would name my next child Google I was finally granted an invitation to the exclusive test. My first reaction to using the Wave was that the UI was not like anything I had seen, but after using it for a few days I quickly got over that. My next reaction was “what’s the big deal”, which was a sentiment shared by many members of the PLN. At first Google Wave just seemed like a chat client that might be a little novel because you could see what the other participants were saying while they were saying it (a feature slightly embarrassing to those of us who are less than stellar typists). Then, ok you could share files, or images or videos and all the while we were saying…”but I could do all of this before.”

As educators we pride ourselves on making it work. If a piece of technology doesn’t work like we thought it would during a lesson we immediately switch to a back-up plan on the fly and keep going. And that is what all of us have been doing with Web 2.0 tools. If one tool doesn’t work exactly like we want it to or is missing something we need, we make it work, finding another tool to fill in the gaps. After that we go through the often painstaking process of tying it all together with hyperlinks, email, presentation tools, wikis and whatever else we need.

After using Google Wave for a week, I see what Google is trying to do. Think of this scenario you and three of your classmates are working on a presentation for your class, before you would have to either be in the same room or email various copies of the presentation back and forth to each other. Because we are educators, we all have made that scenario work with conference calls, instant messenger, ftp sites, and very carefully worded file names. Now think of this scenario with Wave, when it is up to its non-beta full-strength version. Google will allow all of its products to function in-line in the wave. You will use Google Docs to create the presentation in real time with your partners in the wave, while using voice or even the just announced video feature of Google Talk. One of the group members is using the search features already available in Wave to find images, while another is creating a spreadsheet for the presentation all on the same wave.

I hate to toot Google’s horn too loudly here, but I think this is a sea change in terms of collaborative work flow, it just isn’t immediately easy to see because we are educators and we have always just made it work.

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