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Google+: Why is it Great for Education?

As an educator in today's fast paced socially integrated world, I'm always looking for something that might really change the way we are able educate our students.  Social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter are what our students are using to communicate.  Don't get me wrong, Facebook especially can be a tremendous tool for educators to help students, parents, athletes, and community members stay up to date on what's going on in their classes and on their fields of play.  In my opinion, Google+ can give educators, coaches, and schools even more tools and abilities to do more than Facebook and Twitter combined.  

Head passed the break to learn more!

So what is Google+ exactly?  Well, it's like combining FacebookTwitter, and Skype all into one application that is directly connected to your Google accounts.  Things like GmailBloggerYouTubePicasa, and of course your Android smartphone.  However, the Google+ app is available on any computer and for your iPhoneiPad, or iPod touch too!  Sometimes it's just easier to see what things are and how they can work for you. Check out the video below for a quick introduction to Google+.

According to Google+, the main goals of their application are to (each point, except the third, has a short video to help you visualize):

1. Introduce Yourself

Show the world who you are and what you’re into. Choose a profile photo, throw in some fun facts, and even add some bragging rights. Your Google+ profile is your smile to the world.

2. Connect with friends and family

Add friends and family to see what they’re sharing (and share a few things back). You can search your email contacts to quickly find people you know on Google+. Or find people from your high school, college, work or hometown to swap stories with. 

3. Follow interesting people

Some of the world’s most creative and inspiring minds are on Google+, posting their latest thoughts, videos, and photos on the topics you’re into. Add your favorite musicians, writers, athletes and entertainers to see what they’re saying right now.

4. Share like in real life

Circles help you share with just the people you want to, whether you’re sending an inside joke to your family circle or sharing that unbelievable photo with everyone. We give you a few circles to start out with, or you can create your own for even more control.

5.  Say hi

Google+ is about great conversations. When you find an interesting post, show your appreciation by adding a comment or +1. Or share something new, whether it’s a photo, a video, a link, or whatever else is on your mind.

So now you know a little more about Google+, but you might be wondering why I think this is so much better for education?  

First, I want to say that my school has become a Google school, using Google Apps for Education, and that is part of the reason I have learned so much about the Googleverse.  However, I believe that Google has made one major mistake in their Apps for Ed Suite by not including Google+.  It's actually not available for K-12 institutions yet.  This may change in the future and its inclusion would make Google+ an even better option for our school, but even without it being included, and having to set up an account outside of the school account, I believe it's still a amazing tool for education and below are a few reasons why.

Imagine as an educator, being able to to host Hangouts both in and for your classroom.  For example, in an American Government or U.S. History class; what if you could invite a leading Democrat and Republican, both of them at the same time, into your classroom to have a discussion about a hot button issue you may have been discussing in class.  With Hangouts, you can have up to 10 people "hanging out" together at one time.  It's great for families, but what about classrooms.  Imagine having hangout times for students to ask questions in a group format outside of normal classroom times.  Google+ allows you to do this!

This idea can be taken further with the idea of Blended Learning as well.  A teacher is able to share their screen, YouTube videos, Google applications, and documents from their Google Drive with everyone in the Hangout.  Beyond that, Hangouts can be broadcasted live, recorded, and placed on your YouTube and Google+ pages for people to watch at their leisure. This could change the way we teach dramatically.  While only being able to have 10 students actually in the video portion of the Hangout, you can use other Google applications to allow students to type in their comments and questions.  If they can't attend the Hangout, then they can watch it later once it's uploaded to your YouTube channel and Google+ page!  Students can then comment and ask questions to continue the discussion.  Further, you could hold a video panel broadcasted and recorded where you might have multiple guests, with students sending questions via messages or in a Google Doc.  Other people work during the day too and are not available during school hours. Hangouts allow your classroom access to more people!  More information about Hangouts can be found here.

If Hangouts aren't your cup of tea, ask yourself these questions: How many events are held in a school year and wouldn't it be great if schools could promote these events more?  There are tons of events held every week in a school district from board meetings to sporting events, and most educators, coaches, parents, school board members and administrators would love to be able to promote their schools more and get more people to their events.  

Google+ has that covered as well with something called interestingly enough, Events!  Events at first glance are nothing new.  Facebook has them, right?  Well that is true, but what Facebook doesn't have is the ability to send invites for the event to email addresses outside of your organization or Google+ account page.  Facebook doesn't automatically add the event to your Google Calendar, and it doesn't allow for the ability of everyone attending the event with an Android smartphone to instantly share the pictures and videos from your event in one album, in real time with something called Party Mode.  Imagine all the cool pictures and videos you can get from Homecoming or that first middle school dance or on Graduation day.  Everyone would access the photos and videos, but the event creator has control of keeping photos and videos in the album, and they get to see who took them!  More info on Events and Party Mode Here.

These are just two of the many reasons that I have become a huge fan of Google+.  Yes, with Google+ you can follow awesome education related people posting great things everyday.  You can easily create and use Circles to share information and content to students, parents, athletes, administrators, board members, and community members.  You can share pictures, videos, documents, applications and so forth easily and quickly. Google+ allows you to stay in contact with all those people including via video on a computer, smartphone, or tablet.  But one other reason that I really like Google+ is that I am able to help teach 21st century skills, internet safety, and appropriate use of social media use to my students who will absolutely need to be experts in these areas in the future.  

So educators, get out there and give it a try, get your students (must be 13 or older), parents, administrators, and community members in on it too!

Let's hear your opinions and stories as well!

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