For once, I'm not seeing broad educational applications of Google's new Social Search. You take Google (with which regular readers will know I'm completely enamored), add it to Twitter (which I still really like, despite some recent misgivings about its use in education), and you're going to get something really cool, right?
Well, yes and no. To start, here's a video from Google explaining how the service works. Watching should help explain why it probably has some value to consumers but just seems like sort of a bad idea for now in many educational contexts.
So suddenly the blogs to which I subscribe, as well as tweets from an extended network of my Twitter associates will start appearing in my search results. When you start following a lot of people, many of whom share your interests, suddenly you've opened a real can of worms (which isn't necessarily a bad thing if you're fishing for something) in terms of your search capabilities. I could, in fact, do the same for any of the social networks in which I participate.
And here's where things get dicey in terms of educational applications. Let's say that you use Twitter extensively with your classes. Your students are all following you and following each other. Extensive class discussions ensue. Wouldn't it be slick if those Twitter-based discussions became part of a student's search results for topics related to your class?
However, for the average school that has rolled out Google Apps, asking students to list their social networks on their profiles, thereby opting in to Google crawling their external profiles, as well as their friends outside the domain just leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth. From a guy who would probably trust Google with his first-born, this is probably a red flag.
I'm not saying this service doesn't have value. I've certainly enabled it on my personal Google profile. However, I have no intention of enabling it on my Google Edu Apps profile, nor do I plan to tell students about the feature. I'm happy to let this technology mature a bit before exploring it any further with students.