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Synthesizing NYSCATE #2 – Is Google Big Brother?

nyscate2007.jpgLet me begin by saying that Google is awesome. The breadth and depth of tools coming out of Google each day is unreal. This post is not meant to be a “paranoia” reaction. Its just something nagging in the back of my mind. I’ll try to voice it and see if it makes sense.

At NYSCATE, I attended 2 sessions in which the various tools of Google were presented. Some are true Google creations (Blogger, Earth, Maps, Reader, etc.), and some are independent, but linked to Google (GoogleLitTrips). There were 5 sessions at the conference which focused on some aspect of Google. They have even started a network of educators, “Google Certified Teachers.” For me personally, I have trained on it – I was a co-presenter for a hands-on workshop 2 years ago at NYSCATE on using Google.

One of the hottest tools in recent years is Gmail. The web based email has a unique conversation hierarchy, and 5GB of storage. You can archive, rather than delete, email, resulting in the ability to track down old messages you want. You’ll notice the contact at the top of this blog is my Gmail account.

Blogger was a great independent blogging site that Google purchased and made better. It’s easy to create and begin publishing a blog, and there are awesome examples of how Blogger blogs are lighting classrooms on fire (you must see apcalc07.blogspot.com right now if you never have before!)

Web History is a newer tool (I believe) which can remember all of your web searches from the point that you activate it. You can go back and review old searches to find information you are trying to recall.

Google Docs may well mark the end of the stronghold of Microsoft Office. Docs has word processing, spreadsheet, and, just recently added, presentation files available for creation and sharing. More than that, online collaboration is available with multiple users simultaneously editing the same document. Those of us from my district who attended NYSCATE are collaborating on a presentation file to summarize our take-aways from the conference. Its a simple and powerful way to bring people together virtually.

I ‘ve really just begun to talk about what’s available. I hear many people, rightfully so, singing the praises of Google. So where is my issue? I think it comes down to the fact that all this information is stored on Google servers (a joy for any IT department since they do not have to worry about storage). Its not that I’m worried about server failure or space. Terabytes of storage are added everyday to the Google “cloud.” Its that Google is a business. Businesses are in the business of making money. In this age of Google frenzy, millions of people a day are storing information on these servers that can be used to profile them for future use. It is an advertising/marketing holy grail, far better than any grocery store loyalty card.

By no means am I accusing Google of doing nefarious things. My concern is that we are placing a lot of eggs in one basket, and that at the end of the day, a for-profit company holds the handle of the basket. This is where I hear myself sounding paranoid – I’m not a paranoid type. Microsoft got into the OS and productivity software game early, and came on strong. Google got into the Internet game early and is coming on extremely strong. There is much talk that they will be at the table when bidding opens in January for the 700mhz bandwitdth auction by the FCC.

Maybe this is my subconscious reacting to the riveting Epic 2014 video that I first saw a couple of years ago (take the 8 minutes now to watch it if you have not seen it). I can best sum it up by recalling something from the Constructivist Celebration pre-conference workshop on Saturday. I briefly spoke with Gary Stager and told him how I appreciated his tendency to disagree with many educational technologists. The comment he made (I’m paraphrasing here) was: If everyone thinks something is a good thing, there is something inherently bad about it (keep in mind our brief conversation was not about Google at all – this is me re-purposing his comment in my context).

Well, that’s more than enough about this. If you managed to read this far, I would love your feedback. Tell me I’m just plain paranoid, or tell me to get a life, or anything else. But if you’ll excuse me, I have to go now. I have to go check the RSS feeds in my iGoogle account.

6 replies on “Synthesizing NYSCATE #2 – Is Google Big Brother?”

As you know, I have been “Getting Googley” for over 6 years now teaching teachers and students the “power of Google” at the school district level and at state conferences. I have given a Google Search presentation to 75 Income Tax Practitioners who didn’t even know what Google was!

In May 2004, I was one of the first people I know who was “invited” to use gmail – probably since I had been bothering the GooglePlex with all sorts of questions about using Google in Education to prepare my inservice presentations. I can tell you that Google continues to amaze me. At this year’s NYSCATE (2007), I was introduced to several new Google technologies that I didn’t even know existed, including Google Page Creator and Google Custom Search. The list of Google offerings continues to grow – almost daily.

Of course, what attracted me most to this blog was the concept of “Big Brother”. I don’t know about you, but much of my life is online. I hope to never speak to another bank teller, I do almost ALL of my banking business online. I chat (Google talk) with both of the own children just about every day. I shop online, visit EBay, Craigslist, Amazon, iTunes, assorted Travel sites and event ticket outlets online. Professionally, I am always searching for information and tools to make learning/living easier and more accessible for me and my students. My “personal” information is out there – everywhere – and I do not take it lightly. But, it doesn’t really scare me, either. I guess my question is – what information are we worried about being out there that most likely is not already there – somewhere? Do I trust Google? I guess I find myself asking – what information have I put out there that I am worried about? Maybe I am being naive, but as I have made my own “web” out there, I like the idea of having as much as I can in one place and for me, Google looks better and better every time have the opportunity to learn more about it!

Also, as far as the Gary Stager quote (see original comment) “if everyone thinks something is good…”, there are MANY who do NOT like or use Google – not exactly sure why, but maybe someone will add to this blog and shed some light.

For me – Google’s Got It!

Well put, Jeff. I agree that I’m living more and more online, and I’m sure that much of my information is out there somewhere. If someone wants to get a profile of me, there is 2 years of writing on this blog alone, so I’m certainly not hiding. Even though I consider myself a “techie,” maybe I’m more old school than I ralized in terms of placing information online, and everything I put out I have done purposely. I think I need to have my thinking catch up with my actions!

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