What would Google do if they ran a school?

02 Oct

I have been reading a book written by Jeff Jarvis, “What Would Google Do?“” The book is very good and it has inspired me to write this blog post and ask the question, what would Google do if it ran a school. I hope Mr. Jarvis is ok with me expanding on his thoughts and topic of his book.

The first idea that I think Google would implement in a school would of course be the twenty percent rule. Just like how Google encourages their employees to work on a project of their own design during 20% of their work schedule. Students would be allowed to use 20% of the week, one day, to work a product of their choosing. Now of course they would need to have the project based on the topic they are studying, but we would be encouraging creativity, self instruction, and self work habits, not to mention teaching the idea of being a life-long learner. The students would not be the only with 20% of their time available. Teachers would also be encouraged to be creative during this time. Imagine the outcome and possibilities that could come out of this time.

The next thing that would be encouraged on campus would be networks. Now education has encouraged networking before. This not a new thing and teachers have been collaborating to improve student learning. This is networking to the next level. Networks between not just teachers but students, parents, staff, and administration.  Remember it is not just the teachers job to teach a student, but the whole village. Google Apps would be the tool of choice in the case of this network. A way to build collaboration on a grand scale, not just on the school site, but in the community as well. I can only imagine what the next Wave will bring (pun intended). Google Wave will allow even more interactivity and hopefully make it easier for this network to excel. It was introduced as the future of email but it is also the future of collaborative document building and networking.

Distributed learning would also be key to a Google run school. Google does not wait for its costumers to come to them; they go to their costumers. They have their information everywhere and allow others to put the information on their own websites. Google also allows individuals to use their services to make their websites better. Just think of the possibilities when schools and teachers start sending the information to the students. Students would not have to go to a teacher’s website; the information the students need to complete an assignment would come to them. This could be many forms: subscriptions to RSS feeds, a YouTube video feed, or even as simple as emails. The students would have it there where they need it, in front of them.

Great companies do a great job of listening to their costumers.  They find out what their costumers need and want out of products.  They monitor the web for information about their products, good or bad.  They take the criticism and accolades of the product and monitor and adjust.  What if we took this practice into education.  Google would implement this process.  Allow students, parents, teachers and administrators to give their opinion on the process.  This could be very scary to the average teacher or administrator.  What if we get crushed with criticism or negative feedback?  Then Google would monitor and adjust.  Of course a company could not fix every tiny glitch, but they could try, and a school should too. Of course we should instruct our students on how to be responsible citizens and criticize in a constructive manner and not just rant.  This is simply building a community that can only build a stronger school.

I know some of these things are happening already by early adopters, forward thinking, and tech savy educators.  Some or all of these things could help change education for the positve.  It cannot just be done by one or two individuals at a school.  The entire school or district needs to make these changes.

Please tell me what you think in the comments.  I would like to hear the positives and negatives.  I am only half way through the book so I hope to have a second post with more ideas and thoughts later.


Posted by on October 2, 2009 in Teaching


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5 responses to “What would Google do if they ran a school?

  1. Jon

    October 4, 2009 at 1:10 am

    Great post Danny. To extend the metaphor, we run most schools as if they were designed by Steve Ballmer and then we can’t figure out why all the spammers attack our “system” which is about centralized control, people only learning one way, proprietary systems, feedback as spying and vertical, rigid systems.

    I was gratified by your vision, we are doing most of these things, and while it’s early still, our Digital Middle School concept added 50% enrollment to one of our schools and our HS is impacted in the first
    year of it’s existence.

    The change has to be dramatic and system wide.

  2. Mike Downes

    October 4, 2009 at 1:15 pm

    Great to read your post. I am a teacher from Warwichire, England. WWGD? has make me think like never before. I am trying to get my school (or even my town)to think like Google. See

    The UK school system seems to be littered with red-tape bureaucracy while the communication systems are slow i.e. send an email and it hits your inbox 16 hrs later (no, I am not kidding!). Then, there is a total reluctance to use any free communications apps like google cal, docs, blogger or twitter. For example, the school made me sit in a mall park at midnight waiting for my child to arrive from a trip – no advice given arrivals times. We all know a mobile gps/tweet could of informed in a instant. It seems high level educators cite policies and give 1,000 of reasons why they cannot use any free apps, but rather stick to the local authority software. main reasons are security and safeguarding children – just a smokescreen in my opinion.

    Fianlly, Jeff Jarvis at has a powerpoint available of the book alaong with some great videos to keep you on the straight and narrow. Good Luck! Mike

  3. mark

    October 4, 2009 at 5:11 pm

    Great post Danny,

    Glad to hear that you’re reading that book… it’s been on my list for a while. A few months back, i think it was in June, Jeff Jarvis came on This week in Tech with his son (a facebook programmer) and suggested many of the things you talk about in terms of an educational realm. I found it to be uplifting to have someone outside of the normal education sphere talk many of the things I believe.

    After attending the Google Teacher Academy this summer, I have a new found hope to try and find new ways to inspire and make a change. I totally agree with Jon in that the change has to be dramatic and system wide, but fear that something so dramatic would be conceived as negative and not the positive it should be…

  4. Sean Watson

    October 4, 2009 at 7:06 pm

    Great post Danny! I’m especially fascinated by your thinking on application of the 20% concept. I remember doing class projects when I was a kid, but they were restricted in scope and either forced to be individual or entire class projects. And what’s more, they were almost NEVER on a topic I was that interested in. What if we used the 20% class time to allow students to not only create new ideas, but also to work freely with other students or not based on their choosing? We could encourage team projects, but not mandate them. Perhaps we could even combine your networking idea and have students in different grades and classes working together on projects? Would that help reduce inter-grade bullying/violence/etc?

    And I love the idea of encouraging each student to choose their own path. They can pick from their passion, be encouraged and supported by their teacher(s), and bring one of their ideas to fruition by the end of semester. Imagine if the school using its community network (your idea), identified needs in the community and a listing of those needs were provided to the students. Then they could self organize based on the need they are interested in and form groups to tackle the issue. Bridging the divide between school and community, allowing the kids the 20% creative time, encouraging learning based on inquiry and real world problem solving, connecting students to each other, and building a stronger community. Wow!

    And the cool thing to me, this is all realistically doable!!

    Great post!! Thanks for the creative thinking and inspiration!

    If you’re interested, check out the one I did inspired by yours at:


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