Monday, December 12, 2011

No Picnik in the Park

Yes, I love Google.

I have proclaimed my love for all things Google.

I have proclaimed it publicly, and frequently.

Today, however, I was less-than-enamored with my G-friend.

After prepping the life out of a new unit for Junior English - using Picasa and Picnik - a double-whammy of Google photo managing and editing Apps - for a visual essay, I discovered that over the weekend, Google changed the rules.

The storm descends on our Picnik...
Picasa went from offering either web-based and or downloadable versions to offering download-only....OVER THE WEEKEND.

I realized this an hour before class. And in public education, downloading a program onto a lab of machines in less than a week is tantamount to fixing both the US and EU economies.

Even if I could pull off a download on a lab of laptops in an hour, the "fix" wouldn't be a fix at all since it would prevent students from working on it anywhere, anytime: 24/7 access, which is the whole point of using 2.0 tools in the first place.

So, yeah.  Class today: CHAOS.

I'm the type of teacher who likes to be ridiculously prepared for class. I want to know exactly what I'm doing, what students will be doing, and when.

I want to anticipate problems and have likely solutions nearby.

Technology continues to test my threshold for uncertainty.

Today, case in point.  Yeah, the chaos.

When students learned about the Picassa fiasco, uncertainty prevailed: hands were waiving, and grumbling was a-brewing, frustration was palpable.

An hour of it.

And then another.

I closed each hour with a discussion of the problem and what our ultimate goal was: an edited, captioned slide show that could be embedded into a Google Site and accessed publicly. I reminded them of our motto this year: "We are all teachers; we are all learners. Let's see what we can do."

And so when I got home today, a well-earned glass of wine in hand, I was able to step above the chaos and process the day.

The Data: (some of the comments from students in class):

Bill: "What if I start a new account at home?"

Alicia: "What if we make the slide show in Picnik and embed it with HTML on the website?"

Joe: "Couldn't I just edit each pic in Picnik, save it to a flash drive, take it home, download Picasa, and import?"

Kayla: "Would Voicethread embed on Google Sites? "

Brittaney:  "Why can't we just use Power Point?"

James: "There's got to be a backdoor way into Picasa from Picnik if they're both Google Apps, right?


Chaos for me, for us, but what else was going on there?

Critical thinking? Check.

Problem solving? Check.

Authentic learning? Check.

Problem-based learning? Check asterisk.

Collaboration? Check.

And maybe tomorrow, a solution...

So I'm thinking...could there be a better simulation of "the real world"?  Situations where answers are unclear, deadlines loom, barriers grow, frustrations mount? Times when we have to re-group, think outside-the-box, abandon plan A, problem-solve?

This post is either a serious case of rationalization and delusional thinking or today's class was one of the richest learning experiences in my classroom this year.