Students present at Google Summit

GVSU team develops websites, apps for interactive use

By Sarah Hillenbrand | 4/2/14 6:08pm


Courtesy / Star Swift

The Grand Valley State University Team Web is making leaps and bounds both for developing websites and teaching technology, as well as helping students on the team put their skills to use. Last month, students from the team presented at the 2014 EdTechTeam New England Summit in Boston, which also featured presentations by Google for Education.

Professor Star Swift, faculty adviser for Team Web GVSU, said she started the group because of the need to offer free legal materials. The team then expanded to a medical mobile app for delivering babies when Swift’s cousin, who is a doctor in Malawi, Africa, had the need for it.

“Now I can see us doing many subjects in the future over many topics needed to be covered for free in the third world,” she said. “The technology is also used here in the United States in classrooms and by practitioners.”

The group of students also receives guidance from Andy Brookhouse, the alumni adviser, who works for the Cleveland Clinic from Grand Rapids and graduated from the computer science program. Students on Team Web GVSU include Bill Cook, Tyler Vandenavond, Mike Angerbrandt, Adam Rosenberg, Kaitlyn Andrykovich, Emily Wisniewski, Frederic Paladin and Nathan Ritter.

To present at the Google Summit in Boston, Swift said all team members deserved to go because they had worked on the projects for free. The team’s websites and apps receive thousands of hits per month from all over the world, Swift said.

“We are a team. Each member has equal say and equal responsibility,” she said. “Our sole purpose is to teach through technology for free as a public service of GVSU. It is a model we hope others at GV use, because on our team we are all students and we all are learners.”

Wisniewski said Team Web presented on the projects it had worked on so far — such as its websites and the impact that Google Analytics has had, ad campaigns it had done to draw in a wider audience, and the creation of engaging content — and how technology has been used to make an impact. She said the summit helped her realize further that technology is changing the way educators need to be teaching.

“Teachers are no longer the ultimate authority on a subject,” she said. “They will need to start acting more as guides instead of simply lecturing. Information on every subject is available online and students have access to this. Teachers now need to ensure that information is being used responsibly and should be making efforts for students to explore that information and draw their own conclusions.”

The Team Web GVSU students were recruited by Swift and have had the opportunity to partner with many companies to help them along the way, including Google, Haworth, ooVoo and Dropbox.

“We have a $40,000 per month Google Grant for free ads from Google. This means that our students control almost a half million dollars in ads for the websites and mobile android apps,” Swift said. “From these ads, we see who is using our sites and how they are using these sites and for how long they are using the sites.”

The group also received Bluescape technology from Haworth, which is a virtual glass wall where the students analyze the data received from their websites.

“When you have the ability to bring all of your technological products and big data in front of you on one big interactive screen, it is amazing how you can see the common threads of everyone’s work on the team,” Swift said. “The Bluescape helped us write the story for the Google Summit.”

Angerbrandt said he has enjoyed his time on the team and hopes in the future for the team to have the chance to do more presentations on the work it has done.

“We are improving the website now and finding out how it gets used,” he said. “We get visits through the use of pay to advertise, but I would like to see more organic visits rather than an advertisement in your Google search. I also hope the team will be able to expand to technology that is not necessarily available yet.”

Vandenavond said he has gotten a lot from being on the team and going to the Google Summit, including applying his knowledge, exploring how technology will impact the future of education, and experiencing how to interact in a professional environment.

“You don’t always have to rely on your textbook for information,” he said. “The way that education is evolving is moving toward that — more online, real information. It’s free and we want you to use it; there’s no catch. It’s college and professionals working on it for your benefit.”

To learn more about Team Web GVSU, visit

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