Thursday, September 9, 2010

Teaching & Using Google Data APIs @ USYD

As I've posted on other blogs, I always love the idea of teaching Web APIs to university students and finding ways to use them in class assignments. Today, I visited the University of Sydney (USYD) and saw multiple ways that they're using APIs in education, and I'd like to share them here.

First, I gave a guest talk to an Object-Oriented Frameworks class on "Google Data APIs & the Google Docs API". For the next two months, the students in that class will be working on group projects with an education theme and combining the technologies they've studied, and I hope to show up on their demo day and see some cool examples of API usage.

After the talk, I went to lunch with the professor's research team, and watched videos about some really neat education & API related projects they're working on: iWrite, a system for submitting assignments as a doc & getting instructor feedback, and Glosser, a system for automatically creating questions about papers to make students think more about them; and for analyzing contributions of group members to a paper. Both of these use Google Data APIs in conjunction with the students' USYD Google Apps accounts, and are great examples of how research, APIs, and Google products can interact.

Though the Google Data APIs are not as "sexy" as our other APIs, they are incredibly useful and great teaching tools since they span across many Google products and build on existing web technologies like XML, ATOM, OAuth, and the HTTP protocol. They're also particularly useful for students at Google Apps enabled universities, since they can be used to create applications for accessing and modifying data in the Google Apps suite that they use daily.

When I was a TA at my old university (USC), we used Google docs and spreadsheets in our classes for keeping tabs on group work, and I used the APIs to automate processes for the professor. That was right before USC actually became a Google Apps domain -- if I was there as a TA or student now, I'd probably spend all day hacking on Google data APIs and App Engine to make cool apps for classes and clubs, and trying to get my classmates to join the fun.

Anyway, it was great to see how USYD is using our APIs across both their classes and research. Let me know if your university is up to anything similar! :)

No comments: