Beginning today, Google Plus is now available to middle schools and high schools using Google Apps for Education.
This means teachers can easily create a virtual learning environment and social network for their students — in other words, an academic Facebook. More important, access to Google Plus means access to Google Hangouts, possibly the best group video chatting service out there.
Here are some other reasons that I think this is a big deal:
1. Teachers can hold virtual office hours.
We all know that students don’t like to do homework. But what if teachers were sometimes available to help? Google Hangouts lets up to 15 people to video chat at the same time. I’m not suggesting that teachers should give up their evening time, but if we’re grading papers or planning lessons, we can also be free for students’ questions. Also, video chatting might be a better way to communicate than texting.
2. Students can work in study groups.
In Google Plus, you can create circles however you like. Students working on a group project can send updates, messages, photos, and videos just to their peers. Or they can open up a Hangout and talk to each other live.
3. Google Plus can become an interactive class blog.
Teachers can add assignments. Students can respond. Students can share their thoughts — to a peer only, to the teacher only, to part of the class, or to the entire class. It’s an easy way to share photos and videos. You can add events, too.
No, it won’t look as good as a WordPress blog, and it won’t be as organized, but it’s much easier for students to use. It’s a very informal space for student expression. (Although it’s not a direct competitor to Edmodo, which focuses on education, I worry that Google Plus on Google Apps for Education may take away some of its business.)
Google Plus will likely be an incredible tool for teachers. But there are some very serious concerns. Schools typically block Facebook and other social networking sites because they don’t want students sharing inappropriate content or socializing with or bullying their peers. By allowing Google Plus and making the service available to all students, schools are opening themselves to an array of problems.
It’ll be interesting how schools using Google Apps will react to the availability of Google Plus. Will they say there’s no way, or will this be an opportunity for teachers and students to use technology responsibly and to become more technologically literate?
Please let me know your thoughts!