Want to know something cool?

One point of view, taking note of sundry "cool" things that affect-- or could affect-- the education business.

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Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Why You Should Care That Google Bought Writely

"Yawn. Another day, another tech-sector acquisition, blah blah blah." The Devil you say! No matter your opinion of the "Do No Evil" crowd at Google, their purchase last Friday of Writely could have some major impact on education. Particularly keyboarding/office technology/computer instruction, but not just there.

Writely is an online word processing application. It facilitates (yawn) ... Oh, forget all the geekspeak for a minute. Here are the only two facts that matter to education:
1) Writely is FREE.
2) Writely does stuff M$ Office doesn't.
Now, can you stay awake long enough to finish this post?

(Click on to read the full post ...)

Writely lets you create a document, only it's not really a document yet ... it's just content that's tagged. It's metaphor-agnostic. Writely doesn't create a .doc or a .pdf or a .htm file until you tell it to, and you may never do that. But if and when you do, that binary file is rendered "on the fly." The reason that's cool is you don't have to focus on delivery when you create your stuff. You focus on the content. You can tag it further if you wish; you can even add semantic tags (geekspeak for "metadata," which is geekspeak for "information about the content).

When you've got a draft of some kind, you can share your content with others to collaborate. Writely sends them an e-mail with a link to the content, and they can edit, add, format (bullets, numbers, type styles etc.), add graphics, or what-have-you. Changes and versions are tracked (doesn't this sound a bit like a wiki??). When your content is ready, you can "publish" it. You can do the bland old "save as ..." and create a document file, or you can publish the content as a web page like a blog. You can then distribute a link to that page, rather than sending a document all over creation.

There's no question that Writely is different, and it may not be to everyone's liking. But let's remember item number 1 above: Writely is FREE. This means schools can teach the basics of word processing and document formatting without buying 30 copies of M$ Office. It means that a teacher can create a starting document and assign students to correct mistakes. It means groups of students can easily collaborate on their English or social studies projects, with the teacher able to log on and make suggestions or corrections along the way while the work is in process. It means that content can be "freed" from its' container (a document) and massaged, managed, manipulated, and published in a format-neutral environment.

Cool, huh?

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