Sunday, January 20, 2013

How Google+ Benefits Educators

By Will Deyamport, III, Ed.D. Candidate

Google is already a powerful name to educators for its apps, its partnerships with teachers and schools and its latest Chromebook, which is providing a low-cost laptop option for many K-12 schools. Now with Google+ Google is quickly becoming the social network that combines everything a 21st educator needs. This is because Google+ combines the connections and streaming of information similar to Facebook (without the drama of having the friend people, with the video chat capabilities of Skype (but with the opportunities to broadcast live discussions, share screens, share Youtube videos, and a lot more), with the community experience of a Ning. 
Using the concept of Circles, the Google+ stream allows user to post and receive and posts, pictures, and videos from array of individuals, organizations, educators, experts, etc. Circles is a way to group or categorize your connections. Circle are used to share content a specific group of people. For example, instead of sharing links, pictures, and videos to everyone like Facebook, the circles allows users to share certain posts or videos with family, others with classmates, as well as co-workers or other professional or personal connections.
Google Hangouts is a group chat feature, which allows the user to set up a video chatroom with up to 10 people for free – a feature you have to pay for on Skype. Once in the chatroom, a notice goes out to everyone in that user’s circles letting them know that that individual is “hanging out.” To gain entrance into the video chatroom, a user must be a part of the circle the notice originated from.  Via on air Hangouts, the hangout is broadcast live, recorded and uploaded to the user’s individual Youtube Channel.  Youtube does not allow Hangouts to be uploaded to a branded site, such as a company or an organization.
Google+ Communities gives educators a space to discuss, share and discover best practices around specific interests or subject areas we are passionate about. For example, there is The EdReach Network, which is a community for educators to share their voice on a variety of issues related to education, there is The #ntchat Community for new and pre-service educators, where they receive mentoring and participate in discussions, and there is  Google Hangouts in Education for educators who want to dialog about  how they are using Google Hangouts in their classroom. 
A great option is the ability to start a Hangout inside the communities. 
Check out Google+ and see how beneficial it can be to your practice. Stayed tuned for my next posting titled: Google+ in the Classroom, which will be about how you can use Google+ as a teaching tool. 

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