Tagged: google plus

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Another reason I like Google+ Communities

favicon I’ve written before about Google+ and its new communities feature, which I think is a great way for teachers to build online academic spaces with their students.

The past few weeks, I’ve been sharing with my colleagues my enthusiasm for Google+. In addition, I’ve signed up to a few Google+ communities and done some light posting. I’ve been very impressed with the level of conversation in many of these communities, and I’ve appreciated receiving feedback from other Google+ members about my thoughts.

For example, I wrote this quick post in the Google Apps for Education community. Within a day, the post received 19 helpful comments to push my thinking.

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What Makes Google+ Perfect for High School Teachers

I’m using G+ with my students in our English classes. So far, it’s working great. I’ve set up a community, and students are feeling comfortable asking questions, adding to discussions, and sharing their thoughts.

But here is what I’m finding makes G+ perfect:
1. If students are already on Apps, they’re already on Google. They don’t need to register somewhere else or learn another system.

2. Hangouts are great. They’re simple and they work.

3. But my favorite feature is the ability to take photos and video and upload them instantly and automatically to G+. At the end of each day, I go to Instant Upload, click on the day’s media, and share everything to the class community. This means any (or all) of the following: my mini-lessons, student presentations, photos of student work, pictures of students working together, photos of handouts, photos of the whiteboard, videos to introduce the homework or to offer tips to study — you name it.

Most impressive is that even a fairly large video is able to be uploaded and doesn’t take up any space on Google Drive (unless I’m missing something). Today, for example, I took a 10-minute video (1280 x 720) that had no trouble uploading on its own. (I’ve heard various accounts that the limit is either 15 minutes or 1 GB, though I haven’t been able to confirm.)

Anyway, I just wanted to share my enthusiasm for G+ in Google Apps, and I’m wondering how other teachers are using it, plus I’m surprised that many high schools using Apps haven’t yet switched it on. Is it because it’s new, or is there fear that it’s a social network and would lead to bad things?

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I know that Google+ is new, and it might not be as trendy (yet) as Twitter or Facebook or Instagram or the other social networks. But if you’re a teacher and you work at a school with Google Apps, it’s a perfect tool. Let me know what you think — and if you have questions. favicon

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5 reasons teachers should try out Google+ Communities

googleplus3favicon I’m thoroughly excited about using Google+ as an online community for my students.

Many high schools have adopted Google Apps, but few so far have turned on Google+, which became available just a few months ago. Perhaps some administrators worry about the possible evils of social networking. My former school, for example, has Google+ turned on, but the filter blocks the site in the same way it prevents Facebook and Twitter and other restricted sites.

Too bad — because Google+ offers an excellent opportunity for teachers and students to build a robust academic space beyond the classroom. The new G+ Communities feature, in particular, is excellent, and I think it’s the better way to go when setting up classes (rather than using Circles).

Here are five reasons why:

1. Discussion Forum. Instead of having students text you or each other for help on their homework, they can post their question on Google+. That means that questions and answers get recorded all in one place. Bonus if peers, rather than you, supply the answers. The point here is to decrease students’ dependence on the teacher. Also, Google+ allows you to create communities with invite-only membership, which protects student privacy.

2. Virtual Office Hours. Instead of answering student texts or phone calls all night every night, you can create a 1/2 hour window (when you’re planning or grading anyway) when students can get face-to-face help with Google+ Hangouts. Students join the Hangout and can get more in-depth support. It also encourages them to do their homework at a preset time every day. This is particularly important for ninth graders, who may struggle with the daily homework habit.

3. What We Did in Class. Take out your phone and take pictures of your handouts. Take pictures of your students and their work (especially great examples of work). Videotape your mini-lesson or classroom discussion or student presentations. Take a picture of the agenda and the notes on your whiteboard. Videotape yourself doing a quick wrap-up of the day.

With Instant Upload, everything gets uploaded automatically from your phone to Google+. After school each day, go to your Instant Upload, select all photos and videos (if you like), and share your post to the classroom Google+ community.

Yes, it’s true — all photos and video are automatically uploaded and ready for posting. This means that absent students can get caught up. You can also email these posts directly to parents if they’re interested.

4. Good Substitute for a Class Website/Blog. I like keeping a class blog, but sometimes it takes extra time and work. I’m always looking to streamline my work and make it easier. In addition, it’s easier for students to look in one place for everything, rather than have to access multiple sites for information. If the school is using Google Apps, why not take advantage of all of its tools?

Specifically, I like to create my handouts with Google Docs and require that my students turn in all of their work in a Google Drive folder that they share with me. This also means that every single handout that I create goes into a shared Google Drive folder. In a Google+ community (beginning today), I can add static reference links (like a website) on the main page. This gives students a quick way to access documents they need.

5. Google+ is good on phones. One thing I found out last year is that students don’t spend too much time on computers, even if they have one at home. Rather, they prefer their phones, even for doing homework (including typing their essays). This means that I can’t expect students to check a web-based site with any frequency. Mobile apps are the way to go.

Google+ is excellent on both Android and iPhone. It’s easy to post an update, add photos and video, and read other posts. Even more important, students can choose to set up notifications, which is a big plus. Students are more likely to interact with a G+ community when there is activity. As a teacher, you can also collect homework at night (my favorite time to collect homework, rather than the next day) through Google+, all from your students’ phones.

Please let me know what you think. Also, I’m very interested in hearing how other teachers have set up classroom Google+ communities. Thank you! favicon

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Google Plus now open to high school students

favicon This is big news.

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! favicon