By Seth Denney, Instructional Technology Specialist
Google+ (http://plus.google.com) is a social network, like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Like other social networks, Google+ lets you connect and communicate with other people. You can share ideas, pictures, videos, and websites with others. You can also find interesting ideas, pictures, videos, and websites from others. You can learn from experts in your field, ask them questions, and give them feedback. You could even become an expert in your field, and share your vast knowledge with the world!
I have Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and several other social networking accounts. When Google+ came along, I wondered if I really needed one more social network. I now use Google+ more than any other social network. Here are my reasons:
1. It’s a great learning tool
I use my Google+ account for professional learning and sharing. Almost anybody who is anybody in my line of work is on Google+. And they seem to use it more heavily than Facebook or LinkedIn. Several people in my field have almost quit posting on Twitter and use Google+ exclusively.
2. Find things and people
Google is great for searching. At the top of your Google+ page is a search bar. You can search for people, posts, hashtags, etc. The searching is quick and easy.
3. Share things with the right people
Google+ lets you find people, and then organize them into “Circles.” I have several Circles, including Friends, Family, Acquaintances, Instructional Technology, GPAEA Coworkers, and Teachers. Circles let you share things with the right people, and only the right people. Every time you share something, you get to decide who can see it.
Google+ also lets you create and participate in “Communities.” You can create a private or public Community based on your needs and interests. I belong to several Communities, including Instructional Technology Integrators & Coaches, AEA Technology Integration, and Gamification in Education. If you have an interest, there is probably a Community for it in Google+.
4. It integrates with other Google tools
Are you scheduling a meeting with a group of people? If they are all in a Google+ Community, you can schedule events that will automatically appear in their Google Calendars.
Hangouts are the real reason why you should use Google+. A Hangout is similar to a Skype videoconference session—you can see and talk to another person, and share your screen. But Hangouts are much better.
The free version of Skype only allows you to videoconference with one person. Hangouts, with a Google Apps for Education account, allow you to videoconference with 15 participants. For free. You can also call people’s phones to participate in a Hangout. For free.
Would you like to give a webinar to a large group of people? If you need more than 15 people to see your Hangout, you can stream your Hangout to the Internet with Hangouts On Air. Hangouts On Air are automatically archived to your YouTube channel, so others can see it later.
While you are in a Hangout, your group can work on a Google Doc right inside the Hangout. Participants can also share their screens or provide remote computer assistance to other participants.
You can start a Hangout from your Google+ page, from your Gmail page, or from your smart phone or tablet’s Hangout app. You can schedule Hangouts by creating an Event in your Google+ page—participants will have the Hangout appear on their Google Calendar and receive reminders to attend your Hangout.
How do I sign up?
You will need a Google account to use Google+. If you have a Google Apps for Education account provided by your district, you could use that Google account for Google+, provided Google+ is enabled for you. Your technology coordinator can turn-on Google+ for groups of people (like staff members or certain students).
Google+ is not intended for younger students, however. Students under the age of 13 cannot use Google+. In fact, Google will shut down a younger student’s Google account if they try to use Google+.
If you would like help with Google+ and Hangouts, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.