Wednesday, January 25, 2012

LFMF - Google Search App

LFMF or Learn From My Fail, today I'd like to share a failure that's happened to me recently.  I've stated that I just got some new iPod Touches and an iPad in my classroom, and things have been going well.  They've continued to go well, but I have had to uninstall an app, I never in a millions years thought this app would be a problem, what app you ask - Google Search!

So here's the situation, a student is using the iPad during a 5 min break between lessons.  I hear a strange sound, one I've never heard from the iPad.  Mind you, there are several adults in the room at the time, and the student is probably less than 10 feet from me.  So I perk up and crane my neck to see what is happening with the iPad, the next thing I hear is a video playing, not one that I've placed on the device, but I'm pretty sure it's a Youtube video.  I decide it's about time I take a close look.  As I get to the student and iPad I see 2 women, 2 young men and I hear a word.  It's not a forbidden word, it's just a word that I don't think should be said in a elementary classroom.  The video is not appropriate for school and I request the iPad, shut down the browser and try and figure out what just happened.  The student is aware he has done something I don't like, but at first I'm not able to figure out what he did.

This student is not someone who can type effectively, he doesn't spelling things, so I'm a little confused as to how he was able to search on the Google App (I was able to see the search results briefly before I shut down the app).  I decide to move on, but one of my instructional assistants has a brilliant idea, let's just ask him.  He is completely honest and show her exactly what he did - he used voice search.  For those of you who aren't aware, Google has been integrating speech-to-text capability into all it's search platforms - Android Phones, the web interface, and (you guessed it) the Google Search App on iOS.  So all he had to do was push a button and talk, that is when I realize that was the noise I heard.

This is not a big deal I think, I'll just check the settings and see what options I have.  Sure enough, I can turn on "Strict" for search results and turn off "voice search".  I'll even sign into my classroom account to keep the settings. OK, problem solved...wait...what if they do it in Safari, voice search works there too.  Not a problem, 5 iOS devices, sign in on Safari & Google app, change settings good.  Ooops, don't forget the 2 laptops, sign in, lock settings, good all set.

Unfortunately, the next day, I found out I was wrong.  I again heard the noise, and knew exactly what was happening.  The problem is, to get the voice search option back, you just have to sign out of the account, or click settings and turn it on.  There is no way to lock the setting completely on the Google App (the web has a lock, but that is another post for another day).  So in the end, I had to remove the Google App.  It was not what I wanted to do, but in the end it was the best way to manage searching.  I'm going to be giving this some more thought in the coming days, maybe I'm missing something, but until I'm able to restrict their searching behavior I will have to leave this app off.

It saddens me that such a powerful tool is not available to my students, and I'm curious have any of you had to restrict something to protect your students?