Monday, 18 June 2012

Event Report: Google European User Group 2012

A real life 'Google Book' from the
Google European User Group 2012
Last week was a really hectic one... and part of the 'hectic' was heading down to the University of Portsmouth for the Google European User Group 2012 event.  It was a jam-packed day and although a few (well, quite a few!) of the technical sessions flew over my head, there was lots and lots to pick up and plenty of ideas to think about.

One of the things I was doing there was presenting on some of the stuff we've been doing with Google - mainly on our use of Blogger and Google+ to open up what we're doing with technology enhanced learning here at the University.  I was sharing some of our ideas on team blogging, the modelling of practice through our own use of Google Apps as well as some of the ways in which we've found a role for Google+ in our work.  Because one of the things the organisers did was to broadcast presentations using Hangouts On Air you can see my presentation on the event pages... or just browse through the Slideshare version if you'd rather not hear me wittering!

So, what were the main ideas I picked up? Firstly, from Julian Lintell-Smith and Sharif Salah at University of Portsmouth the idea of using Google Apps to build a student portal.  One of the things that was most interesting from this session was the student response to it - they LOVED it.  It was also the little stuff that went down well, like being able to get hold of their timetable in formats that they could use on any device.  Interesting use of Google Sites (rather than iGoogle), really positive feedback and if you'd like to see an overview of what they've done, a video is available on YouTube.

The creative use of Google bits and pieces was demonstrated by Tony Hirst (Open University) and Martin Hawksey (JISC CETIS) - if you like messing about with data, then Google Refine, Google Chart Tools and the Chrome extension Scraper need to be on your radar.  Inspiring, interesting and generally head-stretching thinking in this session!

Another of the sessions which was thought-provoking came from Rhodri Thomas (Open University) on deploying Google Apps into the curriculum.  They've used a very careful, embedded approach and ensuring that Google Apps weren't simply bolted on but were a fundamental part of the course was a strong message which came through.  Adult learners don't want to have to learn a tool to study a course and this was a clear example of how curriculum design can help make sure this doesn't happen.  I was also interested to learn that for 80% of the functionality of an ePortfolio tool (their previous in-house tool 'MyStuff'), they found that Google Apps was enough.  One of their big barriers to further developments seemed to be accessibility and being signposted earlier in the day to will give me further food for thought.

The day rounded off with an open house discussion with William Florance from Google.  I thought I'd share a few of the points I picked out as interesting or 'hmmmm'-worthy:
  • Most institutions think Google Apps is just email.
  • In every country institutions feel like Google not in compliance with data protection agencies - this is the biggest stumbling block
  • Universities feel comfortable moving to Google when others have already moved. For example, 25% institutions in Spain now on Google Apps
  • Almost all Irish universities have moved to Google
  • Google use a community management rather than account management approach for keeping in touch with their customers
  • is where people can suggest and vote on new ideas/developments
  • Google apps for education is free because it seeds the market for people upon leaving education. Not a fluffy bunny approach!
  • There was a question about legal ambiguity on Google products - it's clearly still felt to be an issue by many.
  • William Florance observed that 'Nobody thinks twice about using Hangouts or video conferencing any more'
  • Google has astronomical expectations of scale!
And that... was that!  I can't share the Google road map stuff with you - though I'd like to as there's some Google goodness coming - their rolling approach to updates means, however, that when the developments are ready, they'll be out there pretty soon.

If you'd like the whole social media experience of the day, then you can look at the Storify I put together of the event which includes photos, videos and links to presentations as well as the various Tweets which appeared!


PS  Lovely catering from Portsmouth, by the way - I often feel there should be a content and catering rating for events!  They'd have scored highly! :o)


  1. Great overview Sarah. And yes, I agree the welcome and the hospitality at Portsmouth was worthy of praise. Lovely food and friendly folk :)

  2. Thanks Teresa - good to meet you there too!



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