One of the sure signs that a technology story might be quite significant might be when it makes the front page of the BBC News site. Either that or it's a complete red herring, but that's not mine to debate...
Anyway, this lunchtime was the small link near the foot of the front page which represented the technology section's top story. Online and offline worlds merge gives a brief overview of Google Gears, a small browser add-in (still in beta, not for real-world use just yet, give it, oooh, a couple of days...). Here's why I think it's relevant to this blog...
At last year's MoodleMoot at the OU (come to think of it, when and where's this year's?) there was mention (by Martin Dougiamas, I believe) of an offline browser being developed (by Intel? maybe...). Anyway, I've not heard anything of it since then.
The aim of something like Google Gears appears to be to enable web applications (such as Google Maps, as envisaged in the BBC News report) to work offline, so that connectivity isn't an issue - presumably supporting synchronisation once the "client" is re-connected to the internet. Now the opportunity for a connection-needed application such as Moodle is obvious - it would allow students and staff to create, use, access resources offline and then synchronise their activity when they were reconnected - either at school or wherever. I don't think this would solve the "should all staff / pupils have internet access paid for by the government / the school / Someone Else" question, but it's an obvious route to take, particularly when thinking of the use of Moodle in developing countries, where connectivity might not be ubiquitous as is dreamed (and assumed) by many people in developing countries. In a ten point document against Moodle cicrculated among (I believe - please tell me if I'm wrong) some schools in Hertfordshire (and readable on the Moodle.org forums - registration required), a certain large supplier of a Learning Platform on the Becta Framework (RM) made this their fourth point (emphasis through SHOUTING IN CAPITALS all theirs, it would appear):
4. A MAJOR CONSIDERATION - [product name] can be run "offline"/stand-alone, so if all internet connectivity should go down for whatever reason, teaching and learning is not disrupted. Moodle is purely web-based - no internet, no Moodle.
Apart from all of the implications about the reliability you can expect by purchasing your broadband connection through this vendor (who do sell such a thing)... oh, anyway, I'm running out of steam.
Google Gears looks really interesting, it could open up something like Moodle to all sorts of other avenues, keep an eye on it. Maybe.