Every time I talk about using Web2.0 in education with someone, or even being a do-it-yourself EduPunk in general, I always throw in a little disclaimer at the end: “just be careful what you use, because one of those sites that you base your entire class on could be gone tomorrow.” I usually get this “yeah, right” look from them, or even a “I’ll just use Google – that will always be safe” response. Truth is, I never really believed it myself.
Oh, how the times have changed in the 4 months since I last said that. It seems like Google is actually leading the charge in cutting down sites educators might use. Google is shutting down sites? Excuse me while I check the forecast for Hades right quick.
First it was Lively, now several other minor services have been closed completely or just put on the shelf (i.e. no further development). Lively was probably the only closure to hurt education in anyway – even though that probably only applied to the bleeding edge of education. Jaiku, with the ability to create groups that micro-bloggers could post to (versus the only two options on Twitter: everyone or one person), probably had the most educational potential. Jaiku is apparently going open source, so maybe it will re-appear as something better later (but we EduGeeks thought Jaiku was so much better than Twitter… sigh). Google Notebook was probably meant to have educational potential but never really went anywhere. TechCrunch has a good summary article if you want to see if your favorite Google side project is toast.
What this means for educators is: be careful! Something that you rely on heavily for instruction could be gone tomorrow. Unfortunaelty, this also means that more instructors are probably going to go with the most popular tool for their needs, even if they find another service that is a better fit. And I can’t say I would blame them. This would just mean that there is a smaller chance we will be seeing new ideas popping up online.