So I was supposed to conduct this workshop last Thursday (April 13th) for teachers on "Searching on the Internet". Teachers (like everyone else) are increasingly searching (or rather google-ing) the Internet for information on topics related to the curriculum (as they should) and expecting kids as young as 7 and 8 years old to do the same - notwithstanding the fact that good searching requires some higher order thinking skills and a level of general awareness that makes it difficult for young kids to pull it off without adult help. The focus of this workshop was to be on --
- how to conduct better searches (handy tips on coming up with good keywords based on how Google works),
- how to scaffold the process of information gathering for elementary school children (using Trackstar, or del.icio.us or plain ol' bookmark folders in the classroom computers),
- critical evaluation of websites (making it a conscious process for the naive user - as well as kids - until practice and more awareness makes it the intuitive process it is for many of us),
- plagiarism (many kids do not even realize that they may be committing a wrong-doing by extensively cutting-and-pasting to prepare a report!), and
- child safety on the Internet (if you're going to let them loose in this deep, dark forest, know that there are bad wolves lurking behind many a tree - parents and teachers in India are abominably clueless!)
So, what does GPC have to do with all of this? Well, crazed fans of Rajkumar ('demigod' filmstar) in Bangalore made sure that the workshop be postponed and roughly 36 hours on Wednesday & Thursday be spent completely locked up indoors (esp. if you live a couple of streets away from Rajkumar's residence like I do). Putting up a website with the newly approved 'googlepages' account seemed like a great way to spend time - and one that would finally be a 'home' for the nearly 100 pictures from my Robotics club sessions, certainly a very worthwhile cause as well. Late last night (Saturday, April 15th), I finished publishing this plain-jane website comprising only 8 pages.
So, what transpired in between Thursday and Saturday? An unspeakably frustrating (pulling teeth…?) experience with Google Page Creator. Without ranting in too much detail I will just say that this terribly buggy piece of software (yeah! yeah! I know it's a beta version) that allows you so little flexibility in designing your website, is a blot in Google's product suite. If I weren't so pig-headed about sorting and putting up these pictures that I'd been promising my Robotics students for years, I'd have actually felt good about abandoning the project! 100 MB of ad-free space on the google server for a website plus 100 file uploads (I even uploaded some other images for access on some other sites) is tempting, but waiting for a better version of this software would be not be un-smart at all.
While painfully perservering through the entire website creation process, I often wondered about the intended user profile from Google's viewpoint. I could think of no one other than young school kids - my 7-year old son was ecstatic when he was able to put up his very own website in about 1/2 an hour!
Well, the site is up (phew!) – and I think I deserve another 36 hours (not necessarily cooped up indoors) to recover…..!