Google Wave – the beginning of the end for VLEs?

Google announced a new product to the World at it’s Google I/O conference yesterday, Google Wave.

google_wave_logoThere has been much written about it around the Web, by folks more intelligent than I, so if you want to catch up on the intricacies then read some of these sites:

Ars Technica Tech Crunch Tech Crunch again LifeHacker DownloadSquad

You can sign up to be informed about Wave, and hopefully get involved with the beta at the Google Wave website: http://wave.google.com. If you’re lucky the video might be working on that site too, it was temperamental at the time of writing.

This looks very exciting for school use.  Many seem to have dubbed it the ‘new email’ already.  The collaboration possibilities in and between classrooms look fantastic.  I’ve been a big fan of using wikis as collaborative documents and this looks like it will take the concept of a wiki to a new level.  The ability to drag and drop files into a collaborative document in a browser for instance lowers the technical skills required for working with these kinds of technologies considerably.

This got me thinking back to a conversation John Sutton and I were having about the current state of VLEs.  I have yet to be impressed by any VLE I have seen, the majority appear to be a number of tools welded together into an expensive and ungainly lump, each of which has a better, free alternative available online.  We both thought that in a few years time they would appear so obsolete comapred to free online tools that a lot of the UK education sector would be wondering why they made such a fuss about them.  If Google and the other online players continue developing at this kind of pace this will happen sooner rather than later.

I would suggest already that you could meet the majority of BECTA‘s VLE requirements with a combination of Google Apps for Education for communication and collaboration, SIMS Learning Gateway for online reporting and perhaps Edmodo and some blogs.  All for considerably less than the price of a commercial VLE.

Still, exciting times, roll on Autumn/Winter when we might be able to play with our own Waves. :)

EDIT: There’s a great round-up at Mashable, check out the full article, but here’s a snippet:

Google Wave has a lot of innovative features, but here are just a few:

- Real-time: In most instances, you can see what someone else is typing, character-by-character.

- Embeddability: Waves can be embedded on any blog or website.

- Applications and Extensions: Just like a Facebook application or an iGoogle gadget, developers can build their own apps within waves. They can be anything from bots to complex real-time games.

- Wiki functionality: Anything written within a Google Wave can be edited by anyone else, because all conversations within the platform are shared. Thus, you can correct information, append information, or add your own commentary within a developing conversation.

- Open source: The Google Wave code will be open source, to foster innovation and adoption amongst developers.

- Playback: You can playback any part of the wave to see what was said.

- Natural language: Google Wave can autocorrect your spelling, even going as far as knowing the difference between similar words, like “been” and “bean.” It can also auto-translate on-the-fly.

- Drag-and-drop file sharing: No attachments; just drag your file and drop it inside Google Wave and everyone will have access.