In prior posts I have talked about Mystery Skype and Skype in the Classroom. This post I will talk about something similar, yet slightly different. You may have heard of Google+, a social network just like Facebook. But there is one more part of Google+ that is new and can become a useful tool for teachers and classrooms. The part of Google+ that can help you out is called a “Hangout”. In a hangout, you can video chat with people, just like Skype. However, in Google+ you can video chat with up to 10 other people at once, unlike Skype where you can only chat with one person at a time.
Having the ability to “Hangout” with up to 10 people lets you have the ability of collaborating on documents, presentations, professional development opportunities, and more. I have been a part of several hangouts that we have recorded or shared our screens to work on a document or look at something that needed to be reworked. This is a wonderful resource that allows this type and depth of collaboration in real time without having to email documents back and forth.
There is one downside to Google+. It really isn’t available in Google Apps for Education at this point. There is the whole student privacy issue with student’s names, as Google+ requires first name, last name for an account. If you try to turn Google+ on in your school’s Google domain, it will tell you that it is not available for your domain. I have heard that Google is working on this issue. Hopefully soon they will have it figured out for GAFE customers and then we can start using this more with our students in and out of class.
I feel the professional development and collaboration side of teaching benefits from Google+ Hangouts greatly. What better way to get together, after a conference, or even during a conference with presenters or co-presenters who can’t be there, but still want to present or be a part of a bigger panel. Where else can you talk to several people at once to discuss topics that benefit your school, share your screens, and record it to play back and remember what you talked about or share with others who weren’t able to attend. You can make your own “conferences” during your in-service times for teachers. You can even have discussions within an ESU with teachers in a grant that are at different schools and then they wouldn’t have to travel.
You can even set up circles, like friend lists, of those you talk to the most, by organization, by topic, or by PLC. You can even “Hangout” with your family who may be far enough away that you don’t get to see them very often.
As you can see, there are many benefits to Google+ Hangouts. Hopefully, the benefits outweigh the shortcomings. It is all in how you use it and what you are using it for.