Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Gagging on Google

Yesterday I saw a Google certified teacher emblem on an edublog. My gut stirred. I want one.

Today there's an article in our local paper, raving about a teacher who has the new credential "Google Certification," earned by "teachers who gave up part of their summer vacation...picking up tips on ways to work technology into their lessons."

Now she gets to sport the Google logo; I haven't felt this kind of jealousy since I coveted the Chuck Taylor athletic fetishware back in junior high.

And now one of my favorite bloggers Clay Burrell is singing praises for a creative use for Google Maps in a wonderful idea inspired by John Larkin. (Amazing how the more commonly creative we get, the more attributions I stumble over. Ahem. )

Perhaps all a lucky coincidence, more likely some orchestrated convergence in which all of us get to play bit parts. So today a few thoughts on Google and the classroom.

Air Force k-19B aerial camera, National Archives, 1951

Google is a wealthy corporation. A very wealthy corporation.

Google has over 12 billion American dollars in cash.

True, they have a kick-butt search engine, and lots of folks bought of piece of their action in their Dutch auction IPO a few years ago.

Still, you don't get that wealthy just on search engines alone. Now excuse me while I go get my tinfoil hat.

I love Google. I fear Google. Having a whole class of students type in information from various sites is powerful data.

Google’s not getting rich just because of a fancy pants search engine. A good chunk of their “value” comes from big investors who get the data thing.

How confused am I? I want to be a Google certified teacher. I use Google in the classroom, and not just the search engine. I get lost for hours playing with a variety of their tools.

Google knows more about me than my mother did.

Google's mission is to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful.

And from their terms of service (which I may have inadvertently broken when I temporarily put their Google Teacher certification logo on this post a minute ago):
By submitting, posting or displaying the content you give Google a perpetual, irrevocable, worldwide, royalty-free, and non-exclusive licence to reproduce, adapt, modify, translate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute any Content which you submit, post or display on or through, the Services.
OK, so that language makes you itch a little, but hey, everybody's doing it.

Wait, there's more--here's where I here the opening cash register in Pink Floyd's "Money":

You agree that this licence includes a right for Google to make such Content available to other companies, organizations or individuals with whom Google has relationships for the provision of syndicated services, and to use such Content in connection with the provision of those services.


I have no idea why they use the British version of of "license" here when they use the American version elsewhere--I have enough tinfoil hat issues to distract me as it is--but this is what it says in the Google Terms of Service.

And I'm a little nutty about privacy (but not so nutty as not to enjoy all kinds of "fr
ee" services from this gentle giant).

To be fair, Google maintains you hold the copyrights for your own material, but when one of the largest media companies on the planet has already claimed it can do what it will with your material, well, what's the point?

Oh, by the way, if you use Google for anything, you've accepted their terms.

I very much want to use Google in my classroom, but I won't purposefully compromise the privacy of my students, even if they do not know what the fuss is all about.


Clay Burell said...

:) Ahem: You're using Blogger....

Seriously interesting, though.

I'm not clear on the TOS above. If Google is saying they have the right to do anything with what I've created using their tools, that sort of makes sense.

The data thing....the FISA outrage was Comcast, Verizon, AT&T betraying its users' privacy for the Bush administration (and in violation of the Constitution).

It's all so Orwellian I don't know what to say, except maybe this: My experience in Military Intelligence showed me that the Lions are often paper. Access to lots of data - let's think of Bin Laden here - doesn't make a very good physical net to catch prey.

But maybe I'm wrong. I downloaded a book-length pdf on Google's dark side - or at least its dark potential last month, but who has time to read books any more?

Now I'm going to go weep privately over that last line. (Wait..."privately"? Whatever.)

Clay Burell said...

damn. scratch that Lions, and make it Tigers. Sheesh.

John Larkin said...

Hi there Michael,
Thanks for the pointer. I have mixed emotions about Google. It is like eating a donut I guess. Downing the donut is pleasurable but the only healthy component is the hole. Not often do you hear that said. Most holes have an element of danger. I digress.
WebNode is a great web site creation tool yet when you read the fine print they get the right to use anything that you publish using the tool. It seems that Big Brother is not watching you ~ more like Big Brother is boring it right up you without you even knowing.
Cheers, John.

doyle said...

Oh, I know I'm in deep with Google--I use regularly use Blogger, Google maps, gmail, Google Earth, Google universe, their search engine, and dabble in a few more of their toys.

I've already fallen, though I still twitch now and again.

My issue is my in loco parentis responsibility to my students in the classroom.

As far as the TOS, I'm not so hot at reading legalese, but the clause seems to be clear as it stands.

By the way, Google's TOS also says:
Before you continue, you should print off or save a local copy of the Universal Terms for your records.

The paper (insert favorite large cat)'s strength is not in collecting data--it's the new remarkable ability to retrieve and collate it.

If Bin Laden used as many Google services as I do, he'd have been nailed before September 11.

Just sayin'...

I'm not clear on the TOS above. If Google is saying they have the right to do anything with what I've created using their tools, that sort of makes sense.

Houghton Mifflin might own a good chunk of my words, then, because I've got a bad American Heritage dictionary habit.

At any rate, I've written to Google asking about the TOS for their education apps stuff--I read the online version, and it looks like their not interested in the words of my freshman and sophomores.

In the meantime, I keep my typewriter ready (for the interesting letters), my cash handy (for some books), won't use EZ pass, and have yet to succumb to a cell phone.

All pointless rituals in light of my behavior on the net.

doyle said...

I'm trying to clarify with Google what rights they claim to student work produced using their services in a classroom setting.

After reading the TOS for the education apps, I'm thinking Google understands the issue, which makes sense, since Google probably knows more about how transparent our privacy really is besides the good folks at the NSA.

I'll let you know.

Still, your idea is wonderful, and I am thinking of adapting it in biology class. (Might be a way to help kids think about habitat in town.)

doyle said...

An update on the TOS:

Chandler from Google says "We know the TOS can be confusing. Rest
assured this agreement doesn't give Google ownership rights to your data. If you'd like to know more about what this means for you and your students, check
out this" which he links to
the Google Docs Help Center

Aside from the folksy patronizing tone, not sure it answers my question.
I sent a follow-up inquiry. I'll let you know what happens.

Bill Fitzgerald said...


Just to help you add an extra layer to your tinfoil hat, you haven't touched upon the value of your student's data to advertisers.

I recently wrote on this at http://www.funnymonkey.com/selling-out-student-privacy

Adults can choose what tools to use. Students, when required to use a specific tool, don't have a comparable choice.

doyle said...


That's an interesting thread, and one worth following.

I did touch upon data mining in the post (a huge source of Google's value), though I didn't connect the dots to the students' data, a very important point, and one I'm very touchy about.

I managed to get quoted in the New York Times when
I fought
the imposition of Channel One into our school, specifically about selling out children.

Clay Burell said...

Spammer brought me to this post to unsubscribe from the thread, which I did. Then I had an "oh yeah" moment.

To wit: "Oh yeah. Did you read about Google's relation to the US intelligence community? Some program called "Recorded Future"?

I've installed Ghostery, turned off all personalized ads and histories in my Google accounts, and log out of all of them when I surf.

Creepier by the day.

And hi, by the way. Hope you're well and still enjoy the reads.