Teachers and Google +

Google +

Google plus is the new kid on the social media block and it’s growing explosively. However numbers of users only tells a small part of the story, as many of those users only joined up to check it out. Even the ones who like it are still fitting it into their routine and finding a place for it.

This is a good thing for teachers, because the exploration is throwing up all sorts of interesting ideas on ways to use it. And of course I’m going to add my suggestions to the clamour.

For me, Google + seems like a cross between Twitter and an old fashioned forum. Of course there is a bit of Facebook thrown in, but I’ve never used Facebook professionally. Overall I think it’s going to be great in the NT, because I think anything that makes it easier for teachers to connect and network with each other is a good thing.

Advantages

–  Like Twitter, you can follow anyone you want without being approved. The caveat is that they need to be on it, and I’ve been a bit shocked at the number of people who either don’t have Google accounts or aren’t searchable. Doesn’t everyone these days have YouTube or Blogger or iGoogle or Gmail or Google Docs or Google Reader or Picasa or something? We keep being told that half the world has jumped onto Google +, so where is everyone I know? Weird.

–  If someone is following you but you aren’t following them, there is an ‘Incoming’ stream you can check them out with. Watch for a while and decide if you want to follow them back.

–  You can group people into Circles, but the advantage is actually that you can easily decide which circles to share with for every update. It would be quite easy to isolate yourself if you did it all the time, but occasionally being able to direct something to only specific people might stop you from boring everyone with the irrelevant bits. Especially useful if you mix family and business.
The ability to use webcams for a video conference with 10 people. Outside of a professional setting, that’s amazing. It also lets you watch a YouTube video together, which opens up real possibilities.

–  It encourages long form comments – none of this rubbish hitting enter and your comment has posted!

–  It has its own personalised search engine attached. Naturally, this is Google.

Disadvantages

–  Supposedly real names only (although I do follow a couple of people using ‘nyms). While you do have control over who can see what in your profile, swapping between pseudonyms and names is making it difficult to match everyone up and leading to people having multiple online identities. Wouldn’t it be nice to just be one person? It’s a bit simplistic to say we should all just use our real names, there are good arguments for separating online and offline identities. At the same time there are good arguments against anonymity, so it would be really nice if we could all have one handle that follows us around but has some level of separation from the people we meet down at the shops and work with.

–  You can group people into Circles, but the disadvantage is that you can accidentally compartmentalise yourself very badly. I’ve picked up ideas from all over the place, I’d hate to miss out on something because someone put me in the ‘Mummy’ circle rather than ‘Science’ or ‘Education’ circles. And yes, you can put people in multiple circles. It’s more a mindset – be aware if you are starting to exclude people.

Personally

I’m excited about Google +, I think it’s going to really add something to professional connections online. I love Twitter, it lets me skim a huge amount of information and dip in and out. I am suspicious of Facebook – it’s advertiser friendly rather than user friendly and has so many changes and general weirdnesses. Google + has the ease of use of Twitter but more scope – hopefully you can check out this conversation on the subject.

It’s early, but I think I’m going to keep using Twitter for news, information and connection. My Facebook page will continue to be big for Science@home because my audience of parents tend to be on Facebook. But Google + will be my education professional connection, where I can discuss and get into things.

Suggestions

First and most obvious: Join up! I don’t know if it was because I had a Google account already or because the invitations thing has finished, but I didn’t need one. If you do, here you go. Then play around with it, find people, look what other people are doing with it. After that I have random ideas in no particular order:

  • Use Hangouts to set up a time and video conference with teachers in other schools.
  • Set up a Circle along the lines of “Remote Schools Chat” and organise when you are all available. Then use the exclusive posting function or the threaded replies to have a chat similar to Twitter chats but with much more detail and ability to expand.
  • Get your students on, there are both iPhone and Android apps, and have a student circle for communication and discussion.

Useful Links

Lots of people are thinking about how to use Google +:

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

jenny @ let the children play August 13, 2011 at 8:18 pm

Thanks for this – I’m still trying to work out how I’m going to use Google + but I can see it’s potential.

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