Google School Interview and Mapping a Composition Course

Digital Planet, and excellent program that is on the top of my podcast playlist each week (subscribe to it here), offers us some insights from Google about the future of their work with education:


Could Google expand its empire into education as well?

Google is expanding into many fields such as advertising, mapping and television. But recently, the search giant’s head of research, Peter Norvig, also talked about plans to educate children.

Speaking at the Learning Technology for the Social Network Generation conference Peter Norvig proposed setting children free to develop their own learning, with a teacher taking on the role of assessor at the end of the project.

Google see their search engine as the primary search for this new free self education, but there are warnings about the use of unmoderated and undirected searches across the internet.

This couldn’t have popped into my podcast playlist at a more opportune time. As I have begun teaching at CMU this fall, I have been relying heavily on Google’s tools for running my classes, especially my Intermediate Writing course. (Why they don’t have their reader and notebook listed on that page, I don’t know).

At any rate, in thinking about how my course is structured and what I hope for students to learn, I ended up drawing a concept map of the course and then created two screencasts: one describes my overall vision for what they will do and learn in the course while the other demonstrates how a particular student interested in a topic (I chose marketing as an example) might do his/her work in the course.

ENG201 Course Map

This whole process — taken in context of the Google interview — has been an engaging intellectual exercise and makes me think that I should have done a course map at the beginning. Since I am asking them to both use technology and examine its uses at the same time we are writing and examining how writers write, I think that some of their concerns, questions, and confusions are warranted. I hope that this diagram, as well as my screencasts, help them think through the possibilities for the course. Some that I am think of, in relation to Google tools, are:

  • To use Blogger to post critical responses as well as give and get feedback on their responses
  • To use Google Docs to share drafts with me and peers; to develop parts of their final group project
  • To use Google Notebook as a way for me to comment on their blogs in a private space and keep a running list of comments
  • To use Google Notebook as a way to document their own research
  • To use Google Scholar to find articles for their research
  • To use Google Reader to identify blogs, news sites, and Google news alerts about their topics

Of course, there are tools other than Google’s that we will be using, like Wikispaces,, and Zotero, but this is where my thinking is at right now for the beginning of the semester. I am hoping that this multiliteracies approach to reading, researching, and writing will help scaffold students into writing within their disciplines as well as learn how to use digital tools for productive purposes. I feel that they are starting to understand what I mean when I say that I define “composition” broadly, and all the groups are developing some great topics (check out their brainstorming from our wiki homepage).

I look forward to hearing what they think about the course map, screen casts, and this Google interview.

Author: Troy Hicks

Dr. Troy Hicks is a professor of English and education at Central Michigan University. He directs both the Chippewa River Writing Project and the Master of Arts in Educational Technology degree program. A former middle school teacher, Dr. Hicks has authored numerous books, articles, chapters, blog posts, and other resources broadly related to the teaching of literacy in our digital age. Follow him on Twitter: @hickstro

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