Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Google Jockey: PowerPoint Enhanced by Simultaneous Googling

Group promotes live Internet searches as classroom tool
June 3, 2006

Google might become a more frequent guest in college classrooms.
A group that keeps tabs on technology in higher education says "Google jockeying" could be on the cusp of becoming a university trend as classrooms become more advanced.

Here's how it works: A student aide surfs the Internet for terms or Web sites mentioned by a professor or a peer who is giving a presentation. The Google jockey might have a script, pulling up a pre-determined list of Web sites onto the projector. The jockey could also conduct freestyle searches, and students could send real-time instant messages asking for certain Google searches or Web sites to be displayed.

A Google jockey could be considered the spontaneous cousin of the PowerPoint presenter.

"You could let serendipity rule," said Cyprien Lomas, who works with Educause.

The nonprofit group, which has an office in Boulder, works to advance higher education by promoting smart technology use.

Google jockeying has so far been limited, educators say, and it doesn't seem to have taken a grip on classrooms at the University of Colorado. The ATLAS building - a 66,000-square-foot technology hub - will open for classes in the fall and will allow students and instructors to learn about new technologies.

"It feels like it's something that could really take hold," Lomas said.

Lomas said Google jockeying began about one year ago, and it appears to have been started by a professor at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Southern California.

Today's college students want to be exposed to multiple sources, according to Educause, and Google jockeying could help students become more engaged.

"I think it will have resonance in classes which go out of their way to explore current issues and social issues," Lomas said.

Google jockeying could be useful in a molecular biology class, for example, where students are studying the Human Genome Project, Lomas said.

"A junior biologist could see that issues aren't black and white," he said.

Ian Hales, a faculty instructor with the ATLAS Institute, said he had not yet heard of "Google jockeying." But classrooms are constantly evolving to incorporate new technology, he said.

"The lesson plans are entirely different," Hales said. "We have a whole new slew of technologies to play with."

For example, ATLAS classrooms will have wireless projectors, and there will be laptop carts so students can check out computers for classes, Hales said.

Just like a disc jockey can ruin the flow by scratching a record, however, a novice Google jockey can be a drag on a presentation.

Also, some students and educators are not comfortable multitasking, and the practice could be more distracting than helpful, according to Educause.

Douglas Duncan, a teaching innovator at the university, said Google jockeying would likely hurt how students learn.

He said many educators make the mistake of saying "I have 'X,' how can I use it to teach?"

"They say 'I have Google. I have a Hubble telescope.' Thirty years ago, it was 'I have TV,'" Duncan said. "You start with the technology and try to think of ways to educate with it, and that is completely 100 percent backwards."

Duncan also said a lot of technology is entertainment, not necessarily learning tools.

"You can probably teach a monkey to Google," he said. "The Internet has all kinds of information, both legitimate and bogus. What the Internet has made clear is that the heart of learning is not the information. It's what you do with it."

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