5 reasons to get back into Google Wave – with your students

google waveIf you’re anything like me, you will recall the hype surrounding Google Wave, and you will remember with excitement, the day your invite finally arrived.

I felt a bit like the cat that got the cream when I got mine, however my Wave potential was limited by the number of geeks people I could interact with (I had no invites for ages!). I felt it would be a wonderful tool for use in the classroom, but my initial lack of invites put the kibosh on that!

Fast forward 6 months and my Google Wave account was gathering virtual dust in cyberspace.

As good fortune would have it, my husband and I met up with an old friend in Bali – Werner Paetzold – from Bali International School on our holidays in April. Werner was singing the praises of Google Wave, and said he used it quite successfully with his Middle School students. There was a challenge, if ever I heard one!

He told me about the newest extensions, and also extolled the virtues of Google Wave as a conference note-taking platform. At the recent IBO conference, wireless was at something of a premium, but Werner insisted that if he opened the Wave when he had wireless, and left it open, he could happily take notes throughout the conference, and when he returned to wireless connectivity, it would sync all his notes for him.

The upcoming Grade 5 PYP Exhibition sounded like the perfect opportunity to have a look at what Wave could do.

I am mentor to two groups for the Exhibition (a unit that is a really student-driven inquiry, with mentor support), so I invited one member of each group, and they subsequently used their invitations to invite the rest of their group members. I asked them to start a Wave as a way of collaboratively collecting resources and research for their Exhibition. I love the grade 5 kids, they really are a fantastic bunch, so it was no surprise that they took to Google Wave like ducks to water.


Here are 5 reasons I believe you should dust off your Google Wave account and invite your students:

1. Collaboration Google Wave allows for very easy collaboration. It is very similar to both email and instant messaging, which are mediums that are extremely familiar to the kids I work with. Adding contacts to a Wave is… well… child’s play! I asked the students to invite me to their Wave, meaning I get all the updates as they work. It is a great way of having all the students’ research in one place – a place which is easily accessible at home and at school.

2. Playback – not sure who has contributed to the Wave lately? Or keen to see how the interaction is playing out with your students? Hit Playback, and you’ll see a sped up replay of the editing to date. This is useful as a way of tracking  involvement, but also a good way to catch up if you have been invited to a Wave fairly late in the piece.

3. Real-time Editing – my students think this part of Wave is uber cool – and it IS! There is something mind-blowing about the ability to see exactly what someone else is typing the moment they press the keypad. No more waiting until a person has finished his/her sentence – you can answer a question as it is being formed.
Pretty powerful stuff. Reason number 3 leads directly into reason number 4…

4. Just-in-Time support – on several occasions, I have been online at home when the kids have been working on their research. One time, I was able to give some immediate feedback and suggestions on a student’s just-completed Prezi, another time I explained how to embed a website into the Wave using one of the Extensions. It has been a fabulous tool for this sort of interaction.

5. Extensions – in my opinion, one of the best things about using Google Wave is the fabulous Extensions that are now available. Without the extensions, Wave is like an iPod Touch without the apps – cool, but not quite cool enough! I have pulled out a couple of the great Extensions that I have found useful so far:


iFRAME – this Extension allows you to embed a website into your Wave so others can read/preview it from within the Wave, and not have to leave the window.


Ferry – a way of exporting waves to Google Docs and other formats


How have you used Google Wave in the classroom? Any bright ideas to share? Any must-have Extensions? I am keen to hear your feedback!

Google Wave image credit: curiouslee

Update May 26th 2010: Lessons Learned

Thanks to a comment from a reader, I was alerted to the Terms of Service for Google Wave, which state:

“2.3 You may not use the Services and may not accept the Terms if (a) you are not of legal age to form a binding contract with Google,” (http://www.google.com/accounts/TOS)

I hadn’t realised I had overlooked this section of the Terms of Service (TOS) – and took steps to rectify it immediately.

I had originally invited the kids using their school-controlled Gmail account via Google Apps, but when the students discovered those addresses weren’t accepted by Google Wave (at that time), they used their own accounts (which they already had outside of school).

As Google Wave is now available via Google Apps for Education, I informed the students of the issue, and had them create a replacement Wave account using their school-controlled Gmail account. They still have access to the wonderfully collaborative features of Wave, but without the extensions (at this point). The only loss to us is the <iframe> extension, which allows websites to be embedded in a wave. A very nice feature indeed.

My intention is, and has always been, to connect students to technology that enhances their learning. Although I sincerely regret not checking the terms of service more thoroughly, this has turned into a valuable learning opportunity for us all.

I regularly discuss the importance of Internet awareness with my students, and this has given us another opportunity to bring these issues to the fore, and ensure students can learn from this, as I have.

The key issue is the US laws relating to COPPA/CIPA and one aspect of that is the legal age at which people can engage in a contract.  This is the same thing that has plagued Ning use in elementary schools.  There seems to be agreement that the legal age is 14 in the States — though in California where Google is incorporated, the legal age is 18.  Here in Singapore it is 21.

I would be interested to hear from someone with legal knowledge and an international school perspective.

I remain convinced that Google Wave is an outstanding platform for student use, and hope you see the benefits too.

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