Review by Leslie Crenna, Common Sense Education | Updated March 2013
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Google Goggles

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Photographing the world to search the Web a welcome blend

Subjects & skills
  • Arts
  • Social Studies

  • Communication & Collaboration
Grades This grade range is based on learning appropriateness and doesn't take into account privacy. It's determined by Common Sense Education, not the product's publisher.
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Pros: Students may be inspired to learn more about their world, and the tool makes Web searches even easier.

Cons: The dependence on visual content can actually limit searches, and translation is finicky.

Bottom Line: Google Goggles is a novel way to do Web searches but lags in access to noncommercial content.

Teachers will want to talk with students about privacy -- do not, you might say, share pictures of credit cards or personal contact info. But successful searches link to the Web, and results can be cloud-shared, emailed, or shared via Facebook. So at best, this is a fun research and even collaboration tool, and the fun of studying in a new way could keep kids involved in an established assignment, or keep their eyes trained toward new possible topics.

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With Google Goggles, you take a snapshot of something and use the picture to do a Google search for related websites with a strong visual presence. Camera mode allows you to take individual pictures (or you can select from your device's gallery), and Continuous mode scans constantly, picking up distinct images when it identifies them. These images are saved to your history, and a simple tap on a saved item performs a full Google Web search with the expected menu categories: Web, images, places, news, maps, and videos. Images also can be cloud-shared.

Generally, the app is geared toward commercial items like logos, UPC codes, book titles, and products in general, although it's also functional for people, landmarks, and images like maps. Shots of animals, food, plants, or products or companies with a smaller Web presence might bring up images with a similar graphic composition but that aren't necessarily a direct connection.

Students can learn to use and apply technology. They also can use Google Goggles to help with research papers by capturing photos from their textbooks or by experimenting with their own project ideas in their schools and communities. They can learn how to formulate questions and how to think critically about returned information. For kids with difficulty spelling or typing, visual searches could create a great deal of access. Unfortunately, children with severe visual impairments will not be able to benefit; although the app recites navigational information, it doesn't communicate the content of searches.

Though Google Goggles is quite easy to use, and the Tips & Tricks page gives a simple, icon-driven list of "app-effective" items, the app lacks any kind of general orientation or explanation of what it does. Of course, users can find a video online at the Google Mobile page, and after a few tries, it'll be obvious to most. The translation feature integrates Google's superb Web-based translation website, but the app seems to struggle with recognizing text, so the translate button doesn't come up every time text is scanned. Continuous mode uses a lot of mobile data, and you're warned that you need "a sufficient data plan."

Overall Rating

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?

Google Goggles has a decent layout and design, and it can be a fun discovery tool.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?

Google Search resources are unparalleled, though translations sometimes disappoint. The app empowers teens as they learn to use and apply technology.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?

Tips & Tricks page covers some basics but lacks conceptual orientation. Accessibility potential is huge but not capitalized upon.

Teacher Reviews

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Featured review by
Matthew K. , Technology coordinator
Technology coordinator
Quick and easy, take a picture, it finds information on the object on the internet for you
Amazing tool that with a quick picture can identify the object appropriately and find information about it on the internet. You do not need to know what the object is called, how to type it, or spell it. Just take a picture and the app does all the work to find out for you. Use it with many objects around your environment to learn more about them. Great research tool for students of all ages. Works great with logos, artwork, products, barcodes, QR codes, landmarks, books, dvds, and text.
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