I liked Google Wave when it first came out. However, I should have known by the title (might as well call it Wave It Goodbye) that it wouldn't last. I used to keep track of my news, my reader and my e-mail through my iGoogle account. I was a fan of Picnik and kept waiting for it to become an integrated feature in Google Drive. My students once used Google Notebook, Knol and Google Code Search.

All of those products are gone. I get it. Sometimes they re-invent the same apps (Google Pages became Google Sites and Google Docs becomes Google Drive). However, after losing so many Google products, I am less likely to participate in Google Plus. Unlike the crowded slummy, ad-filled site of Facebook, Plus feels like a really awesome, minimalist home that might get the wrecking ball at any moment.

When I first read about Google Keep, I figured that they decided to name it for the irony. The chances that they will keep Keep for the next decade is slim to none. It looks pretty nifty, but I won't even bother trying it out. I've been burned too many times.

So, it has me thinking about Google and the classroom. I am still a fan of Chromebooks, but I am worried that they might phase out Chrome OS if Chromebooks don't sell well enough. I am a fan of Gmail and Blogger and Google Drive (all seem safe) but I am reticent about having students use Google Sites for portfolios.

On some level, going with Google is a bit like dating someone who is wild, inconsistent and apt to cheat with the hopes that maybe it will get better after marriage. Guess what? Google's not getting better. And why should they? They're Google. And they don't have to. They're Google.

Ultimately, it comes down to this: Do schools really want to do business with a company that has a clear track record of bait and switch? Is that the price for innovation? Are we moving into a place of constant uncertainty that values instant results over innovation?

With Google, we pretty much pay for nothing. Should we be shocked when that's what we get in return for our lack of investment?

photo credit: Stuck in Customs via photopin cc

50 comments:

  1. Note: I see the real issue going beyond simply dropping products. I am concerned with Google's business model. Should schools really be okay with the constant stream of advertising (look at what happened to the once ad-free YouTube videos) and the incessant data mining? We've met Big Brother and it turns out he is more apt to lure us with free and fun than with fear.

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    1. Google Apps for Education does not data mine which is a nice thing. As for Google's business model. After going to a Google Apps for Education Summit learned this....Google wants to create life long users at a young age...therefore they make it accessible and usable for educators so they will use it with students and create lifelong users out them. I like Google and have found that most of what they have taken away or renamed has been an improvement on previous versions and products. I can see how it would be frustrating but for the price...there's not another single product that can do what Google does for 21st Century Learning and skills in my opinion.

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    2. They want users and yet what are the users? Later on, they are customers. They want to hook customers at an early age. I'm not entirely against that, but those are hardly altruistic motives.

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  2. I find your post to be hypocritical. How often have you changed this blog layout? How often do you change the blog name? If you want consistency, model it.

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    1. Good point. Except, I'm not a massive transnational corporation providing a service where people add their own content in exchange for data mining and advertisements. But other than that, I'm totally just like Google.

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    2. Glad you liked that, Chris ;)

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  3. Very interesting. I agree that it is a bit like jello, but innovation has to work that way also. I want kids and companies to learn that our best stuff will have to continue to evolve. Google and their offerings are a great example of how life appears to be heading. I'm worried about our e-portfolios also, but we will continue to roll with Google.

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    1. I don't mind evolving, but evolution doesn't have to mean completely abandoning a service. Instead, it can mean changing, transferring service instead.

      Alas, we will most likely stick with Google, too.

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  4. Yes, schools should definitely still go with Google Apps for their Domain and embrace the use of Google tools in general. Change and the need to adapt is just a feature of the information landscape today. The incredible communication and collaboration potential in Google Apps is still phenomenal without Reader, iGoogle, Wave, etc.

    Part of what we need to model as educators and school leaders is the ability to adapt successfully to change. We also need to wisely choose where we "digitally invest" both individually and as groups/organizations. Yes, Google has to make money and they will drop some products that don't have ROI. It's a very good thing they are making money (for instance, on the Gangnam Style video) because it means platforms like YouTube are most likely going to stay. See this article in Forbes for more:
    http://www.forbes.com/sites/quora/2012/10/29/how-much-did-it-cost-youtube-to-stream-gangnam-style/

    Advertising and navigating the world of ads / data mining is also a part of digital literacy today. Yes, our teachers, staff and students are going to be subjected to some level of advertising because of their use of Google products. This provides good teachable moments for conversations about digital marketing/advertising, and also a good discussion about the free value of not only Google products but others that are used for learning... and why they are valuable.

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    1. I'm not opposed to using Google Apps. But I'm skeptical - more so now than I have ever been before. We need to think hard about Google and ask ourselves if they are still the best viable option.

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  5. Personally, I think by continuing to use Google we are making an investment. Their products evolve (notice I didn't say "improve") because of our continued use and the analytics they run on how we use it--but are they trustworthy? No, and won't that reach a point when users will balk? I'm all for innovation, but Google has a bleak history of killing services. See the Google Graveyard (http://slate.me/14nyT69).

    Mr. Troll, your argument that John's frequent aesthetic changes to the blog somehow equate to Google's history of bait and switch of core services is not only ludicrous but also a logical fallacy. No wonder you don't sign your name.

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    1. You're right about the investment. Our use is an investment and, as an active blogger, I sort-of thought I had a vested interested in Google Reader. Apparently I was wrong.

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  6. "On some level, going with Google is a bit like dating someone who is wild, inconsistent and apt to cheat with the hopes that maybe it will get better after marriage."

    I call it the Groundhog Day effect. Whenever I sign on to some new web-based product and start integrating it in the classroom, ultimately, in time I end up having to start all over again just like Bill Murray. Only, there's no chance that I'm ever going to get it right so I can get past the constant replay. Companies monetize their once free products. Google slashes apps and features haphazardly (sorry Google-you know I still love you). And yes, I guess this is the price for innovation.

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    1. We have to look at the business models.

      We have Apple, who advocates a closed system and expensive products.

      We have "free" cloud-based software that becomes monetized later.

      We have Google, who dumps their products if they don't provide the right ad revenue and data mining possibilities.

      Maybe it's time for open software and Linux?

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    2. Yes, but then you don't get the hosting part for free, which I'm sure can be a big challenge for schools.

      You might want to look at Jim Groom's work, but I don't know how easy it would be to apply at a high-school level...
      http://webseitz.fluxent.com/wiki/z2010-09-13-GroomPleStudentControl

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    3. Thanks for the link.

      I think the conversation needs to shift from "what is free?" to "what does this really cost us?"

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  7. I love Google+ and I share many of your blog posts there since you provide so much great food for thought! At my school, all we have are Microsoft products (Exchange, Office)... my school provides the students with no web space, no blog software, no wiki software, nothing to let them share their work except by attaching documents to emails. I would give ANYTHING if we had GoogleApps at my school. Right now I ask all my students to create personal Google accounts so that they can publish their websites using GoogleSites; it is an essential part of how I teach. If GoogleSites went away, yes, I would have to find another web publishing system for them to use, but I've had several great, truly great, years with GoogleSites and I expect several more great years to come. Yet the large majority of faculty at my school will not use an "un-official" system like that, and some have even tried to tell me that it is illegal for me to have students share their work online this way (it is not). Given this general attitude, until my school gets Google Apps, the students are going to be locked out of so many of the amazing benefits of learning and sharing together online... and every semester that my school fails to provide that opportunity to our students and faculty is a semester lost forever that we cannot get back. That to me is a far greater loss than the inevitable shift in array of products which Google makes available. Google giveth and Google taketh away... but Microsoft just taketh our money and giveth no blogs or wikis in return! Enough with the email already - we deserve better than that in the year 2013!

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    1. I'm with you there. I'll take Google over Micro$oft any day. And, thanks for sharing my blog posts. I'm always honored by that.

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    2. Have you checked out Microsoft's OneNote and Sharepoint? They look like pretty decent collaboration tools. We just got them on our system here at school. I'm going to try them out this week.

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    3. At my school, we have to pay to get a Sharepoint instance for a class... and my department has zero funds for that. Which is all just crazy-making: GoogleApps is not something we would have to pay extra for, but we pay hand over fist for Microsoft, so much so that instructors cannot just have an instance of Sharepoint for free for their classes (even if they wanted it - I far far far prefer the suite of Google tools like Blogger and Google Sites to the very clunky equivalents in Sharepoint).

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    4. Ultimately, that's a disappointing reality. We lack funds and we go for what's free instead. However, I think we're now realizing the cost of free.

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    5. Microsoft has Skydrive. Free apps and documents that can be shared. MS privacy statements are clear, as are Google's. MS may use your data to market MS products. Google may use your data to sell to companies for advertising and marketing.

      As far as websites go, I agree that Google sites can be attractive for ePortfolios. But so can wordpress or other boilerplate Web services. Mahara is even better perhaps, if you are institutionalizing ePs.

      Further to this, tools like wikispaces and wikimedia are very good for class collaboration websites. Basically what I'm saying is that there many free and perhaps superior options to Google in education. And they don't collect your personal data.

      Personally I'm trying to rid myself of Google. I use Skydrive when possible, duckduckgo for Web searches, I don't use Google Reader. Unfortunately I have an Android phone - but would like to switch to something else (I like the phone but not the data mining of google). I also host my own websites and domains, so my stuff is mine to keep.

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    6. Doug, I have mixed feelings on that. I still like the ease of use with Google apps. But the data mining is bothersome.

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  8. Lesser of evils. Apple and Microsoft have had their chance and only convince they want to monopolise and charge a massive premium for proprietary technologies. Google has an advertising monopoly - that is to me not so bad as I'm not forced to buy anything.

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    1. And Linux has a massive team of volunteers who want a democratic ecosystem.

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  9. Great post! Really got me thinking… And while I do have some reservations about Google discontinuing some services we could come to (further) rely on, I also realize that, as has been pointed out in other responses, we need to be able to change and adapt (and model that for our students).

    However, I find myself now having to manually roll over 200+ posts from a discontinued Posterous account to my new Weebly account, and I can't help but think, while change is good and inevitable, surely there could be some degree of standardization that enabled users to migrate content between services more efficiently. What's the use of downloading disaggregated content (XML files and the like) if you have to manually put it all back together again once in its new destination?

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    1. The Posterous debacle suggests that we can't count on large, transnational corporations to act in the best interests of their users. That shouldn't be a shocker, but somehow it feels that way.

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  10. Hi, John...


    Web 2.0 has had tons of tools fail due to lack of buyers and/or monetization, so it isn't just Google. I miss Google Square, Reader, but GAS pushes the balance so far towards the useful side of things that I can't find myself complaining.

    What about G.A.S.? (Google Apps Scripts.) I don't think I ever lose more than I get with Google.

    That keeps me on Google. With GAS, for example, being able to reuse, modify, share scripts like doctopus, autocrat, and being able to automate the boring stuff. (Andrew Stillman has created scripts that even a non-power user can use to make their paperwork roll over and fetch their slippers.) This of course has the power of R.E.O. and the possibilities of sharing on a massive scale of both tools and created resources.

    I agree there is a certain building on sand feel to everything on Google... but that is also true of tech in general, nowadays. With google you can migrate your info. They seem to get that it has to make your work easier and are getting less freaky about geeky, and more about making things simpler.

    Not that you can't get geeky... last week, I made my first phone call through a google spreadsheet, leverage Google App Script and twilio's REST API. While you are playing with somebody else's toy... wow... what a toy. And you use javascript, a very practical language to know.

    The toy will eventually break, and then it is time to find another, but for quick iterations of ideas for cheap, to learn about using concepts rather than specific tools, Google is a good teacher for teachers.

    Of course, historically, it seems anyone who has been REALLY evil, has started out being good and useful.

    Google has an incredible potential for abusefulness stemming from their incredible potential for usefulness.

    Proof.
    Pudding.
    Let's see.

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    1. True. You make a valid point that it goes beyond Google.

      I love your point that the toy will eventually break. That's the hard reality.

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  11. I notice this isn't published on Google+ (at least not in the public stream). There seems to be something amiss with paragraph 3. Is something missing there?

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  12. Still worth. Part of the lesson I also want to impart on my students and colleagues is to apply Ed tech principles that are not dependent on one piece of technology or tool.

    Adapting lessons when one website dies allows us to model that flexibility to outer students and other teachers

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    1. I agree with that thought, but I expect content creation tools to have an easy way to transfer or take content. It is not the transformation of tools that bothers me. What is upsetting is the way something like Sketch Up could become extinct in the midst of a project or the way Google Reader becomes "obsolete" while we are still using it. Posterous was a great example of this. People lost not only a tool but also a method of archiving and a community of readers.

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    2. I don't agree here. Sketch Up files can be saved in such a way that they open in other similar tools. Reader allows you to export your feeds as a file that you can then take into another tool. Google has "Google Takeout" where a user can export data out of their system and take it to another system if needed. Google Drive has the ability to download files as different file types that will work in other programs. One that uses Google's tools is not 'trapped' in their world. While Google will not provide a "Reader" tool anymore, there are options for taking your data elsewhere.

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    3. I think Google has been pretty transparent in suggesting data can be exported at any time. (a la Google Takeout https://www.google.com/takeout/?pli=1)

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  13. I am all about them dumping their services that aren't performing like they think they should, I have found that when they cancel a service they create something better or I change what I was doing all together. Also, blogger is a much better platform for hosting student portfolios. I made that change last year and have been very happy with it.

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    1. Interesting. I used to use Blogger for portfolios and switched to sites, because of the ease of adding attachments. Maybe it's time I switched.

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  14. Hello John, One thing we can count on with technology is change. As long as we can transfer a Google Site to another platform or back it up, we're at an advantage. At this point, I tell students whatever you're using now, don't expect it to be around too soon. It's like life. We grow and change. Our favorite restaurant goes out of business. Nothing we can do but find another one. Life is about change and adaptability. Use what's available to us now, but don't expect it to be around forever. If the technology did not evolve, we would still be reliant on paper and pen, and hey, heck, there was the invention of the printing press that frightened many. I say embrace change, but have a backup plan. I use plenty of Google Apps and don't plan on giving them up until I have to, but am always thinking ahead of what I would do if any closed down. I have over 20 Google Sites. Sites is a convenient tool, but I also keep up with other web authoring tools and e-portfolios just in case. Most of these others are not free, and they don't offer the flexibility of Sites. I was disappointed, and still am, that Google Reader is going down. I keep hoping Google will come up with a replacement, which Google+ is not. It is convenient to access multiple Apps in one place when logging on to gmail, but even the gmail menu and options are bound to change. So, are you staying with Google, Google Sites, Blogger, etc.? What are your backup plans?

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    1. I think that right there is at the heart of what I was trying to get at: we have to have a backup plan, because the Google rug will be pulled out from under us when we least expect it.

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    2. Great commets especially on change and back up plans.

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    3. Great commets especially on change and back up plans.

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  15. While I'm not happy about Google doing away with Google Reader, the tool has not become 'obsolete' as Jon points out. Google announced it will still be available to July 1 so you have time to find a new tool and other services are stepping up to allow you to port your data around. If we're doing our jobs well as tech integrators/educators, we're teaching our kids the skills necessary to use tools 'like' these so that those skills easily transfer to other tools. We're also (hopefully) teaching our students to be adaptable because when you use technology, you HAVE to be adaptable.

    Too many people are pointing to Reader (Jon included) closing down as a be-all-end-all sign or reason to not use Google Apps and not focusing on the positive things that Google Apps is providing for students and education. Google Apps is the best platform out there for collaboration in terms of scale, cost, and efficiency. Blog posts like this are just trying to stir the pot, more so for the argument than the actual topic.

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    1. Wow, Chad. Stirring the pot was never my intention. I want to point out a few things:

      1. I am not against using Google Apps. I still use those. However, I am advocating that we think critically about Google's business model.
      2. I am not advocating for being inflexible. Adaptability matters. However, we need to recognize that our favorite apps can and will be taken on a whim if it doesn't suit the business model of a particular company.
      3. I never pointed to Reader as the be-all-end-all sign that we should abandon Google Reader. In the first paragraph, I specifically list products that we used to use that Google killed. Later, I write, "I am still a fan of Chromebooks, but I am worried that they might phase out Chrome OS if Chromebooks don't sell well enough. I am a fan of Gmail and Blogger and Google Drive (all seem safe) but I am reticent about having students use Google Sites for portfolios." That doesn't sound like an end-all-be-all mindset.

      I posed a question, looked at it from multiple angles and came to a nuanced conclusion: that while we may continue to use Google, we should do so with a skeptical eye.

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    2. I don't fault the idea of looking at Google with a critical/skeptical eye. All the products that have gone away had become ancillary to where the public was focusing most of it's attention. What I don't agree with from your post is that you cite these products that were on the fringe. Again, I'm not happy about Reader going away and I would have liked to have seen Google say "Hey, Reader is going away...but we have XYZ that's coming that will be better." You might have used them with your students at one time, but overall, they weren't getting the attention they needed, so why not phase them out? Google appears to have a lot invested in education. They have a whole group of staff what work solely on education and they are hiring people from the education arena to come work for them to help innovate better. They're setting up companies to take care of deploying Chromebooks and carts. The education area for Google appears to be growing. I think casting them as the 'person you dated that cheated on you' is a bit harsh. I also don't think it's realistic to put all you faith/trust in any one company (Google, Apple, Microsoft) but instead to focus on the right tool/device for the right purpose and I do agree with having a backup plan or a plan B when doing so. That's a good life skill to teach our teachers and students. Enjoy the discussion.

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  16. Great points in the comment stream here. Interesting read. As the GAFE Admin for a district of 80K students, we should absolutely continue to encourage schools and districts to use Google Apps. For those who complain about Google's business model - can we really complain about a company who has provided our staff and students with an email, calendaring, document collaboration suite, etc. product - at no cost?

    I'm not sure what version you're using, but all ads in our EDU domain are turned off, and the Terms of Service agreement and Privacy documentation are solid - no data mining in spite of what some conspiracy theorists might say). We've always had prompt tech support from Google through the control panel.

    We liked PicNic as well, but now we use Pixlr editor and PicMonkey which tie right into Drive, only a few of our staff or students even knew we had access to Reader, and the CORE suite of tools that the TOS agreement applies to has been consistently improving over the past 4 years that we've been using it. Does anyone remember what Google Docs looked like 4 years ago? We've upgraded all of our 'software' for staff and students over the years without over touching one single workstation...yet another reason to encourage schools to use it.

    If schools are unhappy with Google Apps for Educaton, I suppose they could ask for a refund.

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    1. This post isn't about being happy or unhappy. The real issue is about being skeptical and understanding who we are working with. This isn't simply about GAFE. For what it's worth, I still support using GAFE. But there is a danger in setting up students to be future customers with a company that engages in data mining.

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  17. I never inferred that you were calling for end to Google Apps in education, and I'm rather concerned that your call for a critical lens was interpreted by a few people as such.

    Also, why are so many people so emotional about this conversation? I've been a part of so many initiatives to promote if not push Google Apps in our district and province, but I have no problem engaging in calm dialogue about the potential pitfalls our Google Love might be leading us towards. As you've been trying to say, we're dealing with some of our largest, most powerful corporations here, people. Google is not a defenceless puppy. We should be criticizing it all the time, even if it's in a Google Hangout or a shared doc.

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    1. I think I struck a nerve on this one. I figured that would happen with my immigration post. I'm a little more surprised it happened here.

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