The Google Observatory
The extraordinary spread of Google products into classrooms across many education systems means that the American-based company is now playing a key infrastructure role in many national school systems, in the global north and the south. The Google Workspace for Education (GfE) appeals to a range of school authorities at local, district and national scale around the world by offering a free and interoperable suite of software and analytics as well as curricula in association with compatible and inexpensive hardware: Google’s Chromebooks. The growing ‘creep’ of the media company into more and more education applications, contexts and aesthetics is known as the ‘Googlization’ of education and has raised justifiable concern from a range of perspectives.
Key to many concerns is the stealthy work undertaken by the company as it provides products and services free of charge, in exchange for collecting and using the data about students, teachers and schools that it gathers through its products. In this way, Google is able to entrench its place in education, giving it unprecedented access to, and influence over, even the most prosaic details of administration, instruction, assessment, and learning. Additional concerns include how GfE impacts curriculum content, pedagogy and schooling processes, promotes other Google products, and imposes western approaches to education across the world.
While the role of Google in education is open to scrutiny and has been discussed from a range of perspectives both in policy and academic contexts, there have been surprisingly few empirical studies of the actual effect of GfE at the local school level. There are very few analyses of the ways that Google has been implemented in schools and limited discussion of the ways that children, families, teachers, and school administrators understand, modify and use Google in a day-to-day fashion. There are also few, if any, studies of how the introduction of Google in schools may or may not produce changes to existing practice.
The Google Observatory is a multinational research project that will investigate the impact of Google on schools and education across the world. It aims to explore how Google has embedded itself in school infrastructures and the impact it has on teaching and learning. The Observatory aims to become a longstanding and trusted resource for researchers, educators, and education ministries and bodies, making the issues associated with the so-called Googlization of education visible.
The Google Observatory will facilitate public and academic awareness of and informed responses to these insights through the creation of a repository of national, empirical accounts and a website with accessible data and resources for key stakeholder groups. In the post-planning phases of the project, the aim is for each researcher to work with key stakeholders in their region to ensure that the findings of the project are translated and have impact at the local school level. This will be achieved through collaborative approaches, such as co-design of guidelines with teachers and workshops jointly planned and run with school and district leaders.
The use of contemporary and differentiated methods of dissemination will be a priority to ensure research translation. The initiative is called an ‘Observatory’ to reflect our intention to develop into a productive research network that, independently from funding, policy and practice, observes change over time, and is known and trusted by users, including education and government bodies.
Dr Luci Pangrazio, Deakin University
Professor Julian Sefton-Green, Deakin University
Dr Phil Nichols, Baylor University, USA
Professor Sonia Livingstone, London School of Economics and Political Science
Professor Hyeon-Seon Jeong, Gyeongin National University of Education, South Korea
Dr Patricia Ferrante, Facultad Latinoamericana de Ciencias, Argentina
Dr Antero Garcia, Stanford University, USA
Project planning – Feb 2024- Jan 2025
- Development and piloting of research toolkit
- Further recruitment of EdTech researchers in the global south
- Design and develop a project website