Over the past few days the Twitterverse seems tobe full with of discussions regarding Google’s announcement of Wave. The Techcrunch article on “Google Wave Drips With Ambition. A New Communication Platform For A New Web” is worth reading. But I was also interested to read a couple of blog posts on how Google Wave might be used to support teahcing and learning and research activities within higher educational instituions.

In a post entitled”Google Wave and teaching & learning” Wilber Kraan, who works for JISC CETIS, described how a technology like Google Wave has the potential to support a social constructivist’s model based on  group collaboration activities, especially those that can be constructed, annotated or modified collaboratively. And whilst Wilbert feels that Google is “evil” he feels that “a technology like Google Wave has the potential to impact this area significantly” and as  Social Networking  isn’t a market in which Google dominates, Google “needs to play nice and open“.

Meanwhile over on the Science in the Open blog Cameron Neylon feels that “OMG! This changes EVERYTHING! – or – Yet Another Wave of Adulation“. Cameron, a research scientist who is an unapologetic evangelist for open science, describes how, up till now “Those of us interested in web-based and electronic recording and communication of science have spent a lot of the last few years trying to describe how we need to glue the existing tools together, mailing lists, wikis, blogs, documents, databases, papers“. But Google Waves seems to have fundamentally changed things (if the service lives up to the hype): The lack of a framework to glue various communications and collaboration tools together “as far as I can see has now ceased to exist. The challenge now is in building the right plugins and making sure the architecture is compatible with existing tools. But fundamentally the framework seems to be there. It seems like it’s time to build“.

An exciting future, if Google Wave lives up to the hype, for the learning and research communities, it would seem. And therefore Google Wave could be of particular important to the higher education community.   There will be lots of issue that will have to be addressed, not least the dangers of a monopoly provider and concerns over privacy. But, less emotive, perhaps, but  of particular importance to IT Service departments is the question of the browser environment which will be needed to access Google Wave. It appears that Google Wave is an HTML 5 application – and HTML 5 is supported, in part, by all modern Web browsers, with the exception of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer – which dominstates he marketplace.

Isn’t it time for IT Services  department to acknowledge that Internet Explorer is a major barrier to innovation in higher education? Would it be too much to expect a search and destroy operation to be carried out during the summer vacation to the desktop environment across the sector? Or, as a Google member of staff was quoted as saying that Google aim to get it working for all browsers: “People will not have to upgrade their browser to use Wave” maybe not? Perhaps if we find the innovators and early adopters grow to like Google Wave and wish to see it used more widely within or institutions, we’ll also find that it will eventually be made to work in the latest version of Internet Explorer. So maybe the summer’s search and destroy operation could be a less radical search and update operation.