Using Google+ in teaching20-Mar-2013
One of the greatest benefits as well as challenges of using a social network in teaching is that by nature, social networks act as channels to facilitate open communication. While this enables teachers and students to engage online in a way otherwise impossible in the classroom alone, concerns over privacy, protection and the responsibility of educators continue to be prevalent when discussing the use of social tools. As this article from the Guardian suggests however, teachers shouldn’t let e-safety become a barrier to using social media in schools. Rather, institutions need to be able to set out clear guidelines about their use of social media to ensure that students and teachers alike understand online safety and how to adapt their use of social tools to an educational setting.
Here, one of the advantages of using Google+is that unlike Facebook and other social networking sites, access to Google+ is less likely to be blocked in schools. Simply by virtue of being a newer social network, Google+ also carries a lot less historical ‘baggage’ – so teachers new to Google+ can safely set up a new profile, confident in the knowledge that their students won’t be able to access that embarrassing photo on Facebook taken at the last staff Christmas party …
From a teaching perspective, many of the features of Google+ explored in the previous blog post also make Google+ an attractive social network when choosing one to use with your classes. The ability to create defined social groups via circles means that you can post directly to one group – for instance a class of students – without worrying that the rest of your followers will be spammed by irrelevant content.
For teachers, this may particularly be useful as a way of posting upcoming deadlines and supplementary articles and resources. Or in the case of mixed-ability classes, it can be used as a tool to offer more advanced learners extension activities beyond topics covered in class. However, one potential issue with the Google+ system which is worth bearing in mind is that any time a teacher or student posts to ‘public’ this will appear in all streams, including those set up for class use. So while the network is a valuable tool for transmitting information there aren’t at present any options to filter posts made ‘public’.
Nevertheless, one of the big benefits of using Google+ is the integration of the network with all of Google’s other services, allowing you to share YouTube videos and events from your calendar easily as well as receive any notifications of new posts whenever you’re using signed in and using Google. One feature I particularly like is the ability to share any documents you’ve created in your Google Drive (formerly Google Docs) on Google+, so teachers can easily share any homework or follow-up resources with a circle of students which they can access whenever they need.
Last but certainly not least, one of the most exciting features for teachers using Google+ is the ability to use Hangouts. As these allow for up to ten people to simultaneously hold a video call, they’re a great tool for holding discussions online as well as encouraging peer to peer interaction. This is especially useful for those teaching online through tutorials or webinars, as well as in situations where teachers may want to hold discussions with groups of students at different locations – so like modern day pen-pals teachers can link their class to another institution half way across the world!
If you’re already signed up and using Google+ let us know what your experience of using the network as a teacher has been using the comments section below. In the final post of this series, next week I’ll be looking at how Google+ can be used as a tool for professional development so join us then.
Read more in Julie’s Google + series by following the links below.