Kicking The Tires on Google Wave

Finally – my Google Wave invite is here. I have heard that if you get invited by someone else, don't mention their name on a public site – because that person will get inundated by requests for an invitation!  Of course, the person that sent me an invite knows who they are – so to that person: thank you! You rock!

If you are still wondering what Google Wave is, you can head over to the handy Complete Guide to Google Wave for more information.  Of course, I am in Wave now and I still can't really describe what it is that well.  You see, it really just isn't what email would be if email was invented today. Gmail is what email would be if it was invented today.  Email is just electronic mail – a system to send messages and documents electronically.  You can't really change that much, because it was never meant to be synchronous communication. Even though I have been in many situations where the emails are flying so fast and furious, you kind of have to wonder…

So far, Wave seems more like a slick mixture of a synchronous wiki and a synchronous discussion board.  The ability to slip in and out of the conversation – to go from asynchronous to synchronous as you wish – is really cool. What few plug-ins they have are pretty cool. Watching others type in real time is creepy, but still kind of cool.

But this is the problem I now have – I have to separate the geek side of me from the educational side of me.  The geek side of me loves Wave so far, even though I barely ever use it (because so few people I know are on it).  The educational side of me is a little more skeptical.  It is true that Wave is information overload. Even one active wave is hard to keep up with, because people can be adding information and responding to other people all over the place.  You can be reading the bottom of a wave and find out that a better exchange is taking place two scroll lengths up. Kind of frustrating.

I have seen many of the long lists of ideas people have for educational uses.  Which all look nice, but you have to realize that you can also come up with a long list of educational ideas for NotePad (I have seen them).  The problem is, most of those ideas sound good on paper, but they turn out pretty boring in implementation.  Will people be able to implement these Google Wave ideas in an effective manner?

That remains to be seen. The learning curve for Wave is steep. Second Life is floundering in many areas because of this same issue, while FaceBook keeps growing and growing.  FaceBook is way more complex than Wave, but it is fairly simple to ease yourself in and then explore new features as you feel comfortable.  I don't know if I see Google Wave as being as simple to ease in to. Maybe they are working on that.  All of this is just to say that Google is going to have to get Wave to appeal to more than geeks like me for it to go anywhere.

I also find it interesting that Mozilla has recently announced the Wave-like Raindrop product.  Raindrop is different in many aspects, but I already understand what they are going for… while I still struggle to get exactly what Wave is going for.  I bring up Raindrop because competition is good, and I think the best thing for Wave will be a good, solid competitor.  So keep your eye on Raindrop.

Of course, don't let my reality check fool you – I will still be using Google Wave as much as I can as long as I can.  And no, I don't have an invites to give!

Matt Crosslin
Matt is currently the Learning Innovation Coordinator with the UT Arlington LINK Research Lab. His research focuses on Learning Theory, Innovation, and learner empowerment. Matt holds a Ph.D. in Learning Technologies from the University of North Texas, a Master of Education in Educational Technology from UT Brownsville, and a Bachelors of Science in Education from Baylor University. His research interests include instructional design, learning pathways, sociocultural theory, heutagogy, virtual reality, and open networked learning. He has a background in instructional design and teaching at both the secondary and university levels and has been an active blogger and conference presenter. He also enjoys networking and collaborative efforts involving faculty, students, administration, and anyone involved in the education process.

3 thoughts on “Kicking The Tires on Google Wave

  1. I also received my invite recently and apart from two key issues of wave not functioning at all on our IE7 installation at school (fortunately I have access to firefox) and also not having convinced any of my friends to sign up for wave it does seem like quite a good product.

    i have given two invites to two students who i know are heavily into google services and encouraged them to use their invites to get their friends in. it will be interesting to see their reactions. overall though this is still early days i think.

  2. Matt Crosslin

    Brain – this is what I want to see happening more: students getting invites from teachers. I think that all of the ideas people have for educational uses will be great, but until we get real students in there, we won’t know for sure. But as in the case with most other edtech tools, the students will probably have even better ideas than us! :)

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