George Lucas Educational Foundation
Technology Integration

An Educator’s Letter: What Happened, Google?

May 31, 2013

Dear Google,

I have been an admirer of yours for a long time. I'm currently trying out a Chromebook as a possible piece of our middle school 1:1 roll out. I'm using Google Drive with both my Language Arts students and Speech & Debate team in order to have them collaborate and develop academic communities. I'm eyeing attending Google U because I so deeply believe in how aligned your products are with education's goals. Having said that, however, you have pulled the rug out from under me with the disappearance of your Google Search Story Video Creator. I'm weeping inside. Seriously.

For those of you who do not know the glory that was the Google Search Story, I will try to describe its educative awesome-ness to the best of my ability. It all started during what I believe was Superbowl 2009. Well, one of the commercials featured a love story told through Google searches and set to music. The camera was close up to the keywords or questions that were posed in a search bar, this led to related websites on which we saw the cursor click, and these then led to an additional search. These progressed chronologically through the narrative, ending in a charming resolution...all within a minute or so.

There are other great Google produced or inspired ones out there too, like the one of Harry Potter told in seven searches or the one about a brother and sister's sweet relationship.

The enthusiasm for the Google Search Story was astronomical. Civilians, non-Googleites, from all over immediately embraced it as a different kind of scrapbook, one that focused on keywords and life stories. They yelled with virtual bullhorns for a way to create them themselves and Google responded, creating the Video Creator.

As for me, I used them in my classroom and as my student Calvin noted this year when surveyed about the most valuable and engaging project we did, he responded without a beat, "The Google Search Story." The whole class nodded in agreement.

I used the Search Story to combine both factual research with narrative writing. There is clearly a huge connection to the Common Core. In fact, in my most recent book, Writing Behind Every Door: Strategies for Teaching Writing in Every Classroom (due out fall, 2013), I suggest the following:

The students had to take the key URLs that helped to guide their research and order them in such a way as to create their own narratives. It's informational writing and research structured in such a way as to promote storytelling. A science, history, math, or electives teacher, however, could have them produce Google Search Stories without a narrative structure, but instead combining facts with music. The music that the students choose, helps to set the tone of the overall topic.

Needless to say, I will be revising the book to delete this suggested lesson.

Sadly, this current year's classes are the last to participate in this project because Google has chosen to discontinue this page. We are all in a sort of ed tech mourning. The "Error" notice on the page that once existed is loud with its denial. The links that send you to it are mean with their taunting, and the dead end so final, it makes your heart sink.

What do you need, dearest Google? Did you not know how valuable this tool was in the classroom? If so, may this post convince you, adding to the list of distraught comments on the abandoned page. Do you need encouragement and accolades? You have it in spades.

I'm sure this was a decision based on what we all struggle with in education: money. I don't have a lot of that, but if that indeed is what it takes to maintain a "silver bullet" lesson, one that hits everything on the checklist -- engaging, valuable, 21st century, applicable, blends narrative and informational writing -- then I have my debit card ready to thrown in what I can. What would it take? How many of us who have used your Search Story would throw in a dollar, five dollars, or more to maintain it as a tool? What would it take to re-imagine it as an app, something we could purchase as a whole?

Teachers are so loyal to that which works, that which helps us do our job in a richer and deeper way, that resonates with the students. And we were and continue to be loyal to you and your products. However, I beg you Google gods to please reconsider the discontinuation of this resource. You stumbled on greatness with that Superbowl ad, an educational touchdown as it were. Perhaps you found success in a different way than you first intended, but it resonated in the classrooms.

I deeply hope one day I will wake up to find an announcement in my EdTech Smartbrief that Google Search Story is once again available for use. In the meantime, I will search on my own for options with the full knowledge that there will be nothing else like it.

Heather Wolpert-Gawron
Language Arts Department Chair
Speech & Debate Coach

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