3 April 2014
Just when you think you’re getting pretty good at Facebook and Twitter, new technologies just keep rolling in, each promising more than ever before. Enter Google+ hangouts, an excellent FREE resource that your school should be using today. Need convincing? Take a look at this quick clip to see a live example of Google+ being used as a teaching tool – pretty inspirational! Following on from the clip is a quick summary on “hangouts” , along with a few ideas on how this technology can be used to connect students, teachers, and your school community.
What is a “hangout”?
A hangout is a virtual meeting space provided by Google to it’s users for free. It allows members of Google+ to chat to up to 10 groups at any one time, anywhere in the world via a video connection. This is essentially Skype on steroids, and allows you to broadcast live or pre-record a session, all of which can be added to an archive for people to watch at their convenience. All that’s required to start or participate in a hangout is a web cam, a computer or mobile device connected to the internet, and a Google+ account.
Uses for schools
In the era of the “connected classroom”, hangouts can be used in hundreds of ways, limited only to the imagination of the teachers and students, and the technology available within the school. Here are a few simple thought starters on using Google+ hangouts at your school:
1. Connecting with other students
Can you imagine the excitement in French class on announcing you were conducting a hangout with a school in France, allowing the kids to practice their language skills in conversing with others half way around the world? They could talk about their daily life, culture, foods, landscape, etc – far more interesting than reading it from a text book! Hangouts also allow remote and rural schools to participate in discussions and activities conducted in regional cities, that would otherwise be inaccessible due to location, time and cost.
2. Connecting with experts
An author of a best selling children’s book is conducting a hangout with 10 schools across the country to talk about building the story, crafting the characters, and to answer questions from the students – interested? Of course, who wouldn’t be? A local sports star is sharing insights on nutrition, skills, and exercise tips for kids. An emerging artist is acting in a mentoring role with the year 9 art class, helping with technique and critiquing the students’ work. Get my drift? The list goes on, and the possibilities are endless!
3. Connecting with other teachers
As part of every teacher’s personal and professional development, wouldn’t it be great if your school could initiate peer to peer interest / specialty groups (called “circles” in Google+)? Chances are, these interest groups probably already exist on Google+ anyway if you go and do a quick search. I did a quick search for English teachers, and here’s a group of over 400 members that popped up – Google+ English Teachers . Teachers across regions could meet via a hangout once a term to discuss new ideas in their given specialty area and collaborate resources to enrich the teaching and learning experience for all. Teachers could also benefit from a mentoring program by introducing them to experts in related fields outside of teaching.
4. Connecting with parents
In today’s busy household, it’s often impossible for one, or both parents to make it to each and every school performance or awards presentation (most of which are scheduled during the working day). Your school could be videoing these live, and allowing parents to watch via hangout (either live or after the event) – they (and their children) would be delighted! And, whilst I still think face to face parent teacher interviews are here to stay for the time being – it would be great if a parent who was away, or unable to make the appointment, could interact via a hangout.
So there you have it, four quick ways that your school could be using Google+ Hangouts to help connect your students, teachers and parents for a far more rewarding and engaging experience. Best of all, it’s free, it’s private (only those you invite into your circles are allowed to participate), and it can all be set up with existing technology readily available at the majority of schools.
Good luck, enjoy hanging out!
PS – There are a number of online tutorials available showing you how to set up a hangout, or if you’re still not sure, feel free to contact me for more information.