The Googlization of Hope Technology School

The Googlization of Hope Technology School

Google Develop for Good

 

You’re just a fool
Just a fool
To Believe you can change the world
Change, Carried Underwood

 

Steve Jobs famously said, “Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish”.  His brand of ‘foolishness’ changed the world.  We can practice this same type of ‘foolishness’, and through our own efforts produce change in the world.

Thanksgiving weekend was a time of gratitude for our family and friends.  A few of us were lucky enough to extend this experience to Monday morning.  We witnessed the meeting of two ‘foolish’ organizations.

One word describes these two organizations. The word is discovery. The organizations are Hope Technology School and Google Inc.  This is how they met.

The Googlization of Everything

‘The Googlization of Everything’ is a book written by Professor Siva Vaidhyanathan.  It takes a cultural and critical look at Google.  Professor Siva is concerned about the tremendous influence of the Mountain View behemoth, which he believes holds powerful sway over every aspect of our lives.

The startlingly fast rise of Google requires understanding, because the company is shaping our future like few others.

The story I am sharing with you will humanize Google Inc., and  with it our view of Googlization.

Ten Things We Know To Be True

The Google mission statement is unique.  They describe it as “Ten Things We Know To Be True”.  Number 6 on the list says, “You can make money without being evil.”

This statement has received a great deal of attention over the years.  Both positive and negative reviews abound.

What cannot be denied is the bold idealism of any company willing to publicly proclaim their belief in doing good.

First Contact

Google held a special day for children with Down Syndrome a few years ago.  My son, who has Down syndrome, attended along with me and one of his friends.

This day focused on helping children with Down Syndrome leverage the power of the internet.  It took place because Google’s leadership and employees decided to devote a day to doing good.

The Down Syndrome families streamed into the auditorium on Google Campus, where they received hands on help from Google employees.

This was the day when I began to believe Google might be different, which is why I shared the story of Hope Technology School with a few of them.

Hope Technology School

Hope Technology School (HTS) has created a unique inclusive educational culture, where typical and special needs kids learn together all day long.  There is no separation or segregation based on human limits.

Four words accurately and beautifully describe HTS.

  1. Character – students develop intellectually, socially, and emotionally
  2. Inclusion – students collaborate rather than compete to excel
  3. Technology – teachers and therapists leverage these tools to make educational innovation and discovery possible
  4. Curriculum – teachers and therapists masterfully adapt for every learning style

Googlization as a Good Thing

Hope Technology School has been on the cutting edge of every significant technology breakthrough in education.  They were there when HP released the TouchSmart, and brought touch technology into the consumer mainstream.

This Touch Technology exploded with the release of the Apple iOS, and again HTS was there.  Apple Employees inspired by the innovative work of the school donated iPad’s and a revolution began.

The revolution gained steam when Google employees lent a hand.   Suddenly the number of iPads were dwarfed by an abundance of Android machines.  Teachers integrated tablets and software tools from Google into the curriculum.  Students explored independently.  They created projects of personal discovery rote learning could never produce.

Google is a global force in the world.   The fact that they would notice, let alone lend support to the cause of inclusive learning and character based education is heartening.

How did this happen?

Simple.

Google and its employees really do believe in doing good not evil.

Googlization!

Google Visits HTS

Digital Scribbler is a small startup launched by a team of friends of which I have been a part for 20 years.

We wanted to help children with Autism who are verbally challenged, so we developed a communication app called Quick Talk AAC.   We released the app one year ago on the Android platform.  Later on we released it on the iPad, iPhone, and all Kindle devices.   We received our inspiration from HTS and their efforts with Hacking Autism.

Developing Quick Talk AAC, which is used at Hope Technology School has made me a fan of Google.  Their authentic interest in education has been refreshing.   Although Apple holds the lead in education, it is my belief that parents and educators should begin giving Android serious consideration (I will write more on this in the future).

These experiences allowed me to be a part of the visit made by members of Google’s Android team to HTS.   Scheduling was difficult because the Android team was in the midst of releasing Android 4.2, along with the Nexus 4 and 10.  They were also updating the Nexus 7 lineup.

Despite their busy schedules they were determined to visit.  On the Monday after Thanksgiving the big day arrived.  Students and teachers were nervously excited about the gurus of Google visiting.

The visit was a huge success and extraordinarily inspiring!

Hugo Barra and Hiroshi Lockheimer were among those who took a tour of the school.  They even stopped in on a few classes, took Q&A, and faced a few tough questions from the 8th grade class.  Hugo gave them a demo of Photo Sphere, when asked about the cool products currently being released (see his photo of the school here).

One of the most inspiring moments was when both Hugo and Hiroshi engaged in a conversation with one of the verbally challenged students.  It was particularly rewarding to see the conversation facilitated through the use of Quick Talk AAC (the new unreleased version).

What did I learn?

Google is a unique company.  This is not a company of engineers making products.  It is a company of explorers searching the unknown to discover the future, and change the world.  I couldn’t help but see the parallels between their work, and the work of the staff and students at Hope Technology School.

Hope Technology School is on the educational cutting edge.  Their daily work is one of discovery, where they are creating a future in which typical and special needs children can learn and live together.  A future were each student regardless of human limitation can fulfill their maximum potential.

HTS like Google is changing the world.

This realization made sense of the meeting between Google and HTS.

It gave me hope for the future.  Amidst all the negative headlines we are bombarded with on a daily basis, it seemed right to share this story of good.

About Russ Ewell

Since 1994 I have been devoted to the research and application of innovative technology solutions to education. My passion for these pursuits has been driven by my experience as a parent of children with special needs. During the economic technological growth explosion of the 1990's I was lived and worked in Silicon Valley, and was fortunate enough to find a group of people with similar interests and passions. As a result I was able to launch a non-profit called Hope Technology Group whose mission became advancing the use of technology in education. We eventually launched Hope Technology School, which has used technology to build a fascinating and effective educational program that practices full inclusion. Around the same time, I was fortunate enough to develop and build an awarding winning program called E-Soccer with the help of great friends and excellent coaches. These endeavors have left me with a continuing hunger to learn more about the possibilites of education, technology, and inclusion.

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