Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the Spring 2011 issue of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the trade magazine for homeschool families. Read the magazine free at www.TOSMagazine.com or read it on the go and download the free apps at www.TOSApps.com to read the magazine on your mobile devices.

Wow, I can’t believe how fast technology advances—so much has happened since Part 1 of this article was written. The second-generation iPad is really coming together, Apple just hit their 10 billionth iOS app download (iOS is the name of the Apple operating system that runs on their iPhone/iPodTouch/iPad); Barnes & Noble just put out their second-generation, full-color Nook ebook reader; HP bought and is now developing Palm’s smartphone OS: WebOS (OS is short for “operating system”); IBM just had their 100th birthday; Google is doing some amazing stuff in their smartphone OS: Android Honeycomb (3.0); and Verizon now carries the iPhone. While it may seem like a bunch of random accomplishments, events like this are changing the future of education.

Smartphones/tablets and cell service providers are replacing computers, ebook readers, phones, TV, and even the need for a household cable Internet or phone service. Every piece of technology we use on a daily basis is being reinvented, which is why it was so important to cover the changes and developments in hardware in Part 1 of this article (Winter 2010/2011 issue). This time around, we’re going to talk about the software and web-based services that run on some of these devices.

Do you have a LAN phone line? Are you on dial-up Internet? Or are you still on cable/DSL/satellite? Tethering plans like those offered by cell companies such as AT&T and Verizon have speeds that are faster than the services offered by some of your local cable Internet companies. Verizon is currently building an LTE (Long Term Evolution) network that will offer speeds of up to 14 mbps (megabits per second) download speed. I can see this replacing the need for home Internet very soon. The reason I bring this up is because in the fast-approaching future, most if not all of your students’ educations will depend on or be available over the Internet.

While in college, I learned twice as much by researching topics through smartphone apps, websites, and ebooks on my iPhone 4 than I ever did in class. The Internet is allowing us to become a self-taught society and I love it! Let’s take a look at some of the websites and companies that are spearheading these developments.

Google

Google is the largest company online right now. They host the top most-visited sites, offer the best search engine, and likely provide the most useful online alternatives to some of the most invaluable programs we use on our computers.

Google is all about education. Their core function, searching, is all about getting you the results you’re looking for, fast! I use these Google products almost on a daily basis:

  • Google Search
  • Google Docs
  • Google Calendar
  • Google Maps
  • Google YouTube
  • Google Android Market 

To “Google something” (www.google.com) is to search for something online. The invention of a single tool that can search the world and its entire history has got to be the single biggest technological advancement since the Internet itself! I mean, if you want to learn or advance any other technology or industry, you’re most likely going to learn about it or advertise it online one way or another. If you want to know about anything—if you need to learn anything—whatever it is, Google will find it. Pretty much everything I taught myself came via Google.