Larry Page and Sergei Brin met at Stanford, in 1995, yet their business, Google, has become one of the most significant global businesses of our times. Their search engine has transformed the way we search for information and has changed our very relationship with knowledge, making it a significant contribution to learning. As the world’s most successful search engine it has become an indispensable tool for learning and research.
Brin was born in Russia and educated in the US, Page is from Michigan.
Like Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Mahatma Gandhi, Sigmund Freud, Buckminster Fuller, Leo Tolstoy, Bertrand Russell, Jean Piaget and Hilary and Bill Clinton before them, they both attended Montessori schools. Indeed, they both credit their Montessori education for much of their success. It was the Montessori experience, they claim, that made them self-directed, allowing them to think for themselves and pursue their real interests.
Google Search and learning
Their mathematical approach to search problems at Stanford led to a search engine that ranked sites by popularity. Their scalable model looked at links, so the larger the web became the better their engine became. Famously based on a spelling error (Google should have been Googol), Google's mission is to ‘organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful’. Specialist searching of text, images, video, books, academic papers, Universities, news, maps and prices, have given the ordinary user unparalleled access to knowledge stored in different media. It is the speed and efficiency of such search that has accelerated our ability as learners to identify relevant knowledge. Learners of all ages and abilities see the web as a useful source of knowledge. Researchers, from schoolchildren with projects to advanced researchers in educational institutions, often find Google an indispensable tool.
Google Scholar is a free, search service for scholarly literature. It contains most academic journals, books and other academic literature. Search is weighted towards citations and the ability to choose a citation format is a strong feature. Other search for images, news and so on have also been useful in education.
Google tools in Education
G Suite is a cloud-based set of educational tools, launched in 2006. It includes Gmail (email), Hangouts (comms and collaboration), Calendar, Drive (storage), Docs, Sheets, Forms and other tools for shared resources and collaboration. As ac loud-based solution your data is stored securely and backed up effortlessly. Tens of millions use the service in education. Blogger provides free blogging software to tens of millions of bloggers and there is a large community of education and training bloggers. This has proved useful in, for example, CPD (Continuous Professional Development).Google Books, Google Earth, Google Translate and Google Assistant are just some of the free services that have also contributed to education.
Google and digitisation
Google’s work to digitise the contents of some of the world’s great libraries is also contributing to the storage and dissemination of knowledge. The aim is to make the contents of books (text and images) searchable and available, while being sensitive to the ‘in and out of print’ issues along with the ‘copyright and public domain’ restrictions. They are looking at millions of books available over and above the existing Google Books program with publishers. This takes Google beyond searching to the creation of online resources for searching.
Google’s presence in schools has been seen as a way of getting their brand into the heads of younger people, for future exploitation. There is also the issue of tax avoidance where, by not paying fair amounts of tax in many countries, notably the notorious “double Irish” loophole to avoid paying tax in Europe, Africa and the Middle East, has come under fire. A similar arrangement exists in Singapore for the Far East. Thomas Picketty has described this literally as the ‘theft’ by one country from many others.
Page and Brin have created a toolset that has already revolutionised access to knowledge. Their organisation continues to revolutionise learning and to ‘organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful’. The scale of this task is enormous and on-going. Few organisations now have the tools and financial muscle to make it possible. It is truly an example of technology making a huge impact on the efficacy of learning.