Thursday, September 12, 2013

Google+: Cross-post From CUE’s Blog

This post was the fourth in a series of blog posts that a bunch of my #EduAwesome buddies wrote for CUE's blog. The three earlier posts are linked in the first paragraph below - check them out! Thanks to Kate Petty for giving me the opportunity to write a guest post for CUE!

So. Now that you’ve heard about getting on Twitter to build your PLN from David Theriault, you’ve gone out and interacted - shared what you knew, asked questions, and found and shared cool resources. Nice - great first step. Then, you started blogging like Jen Wagner suggested - keep it up! After Jo-Ann Fox’s encouragement, you’ve taken your Twitter usage to the next level and started to participate in various education-related chats. Sweet! But what more is there? I’M SO GLAD YOU ASKED!

I’m here to share with you the final frontier - or maybe the next frontier. Google+. Yes, Google+. It’s worth your time. Believe me.

How? Why? I thought you’d never ask!

Got a Gmail account? Everyone has a Google+ account associated with their personal Gmail account. If you use a school-related Google Apps for Education (GAFE) account, your network administrator determines if you have Google+ turned on. Regardless, you should be building your Google+ PLN through your personal Gmail account. (What if you changed jobs? All that work on your GAFE Google+ account would disappear…)

Get a picture up. Now. First step. Want to be super helpful? Use the same profile picture that you used on Twitter for your Google+ profile. It’ll make it way easier for people who follow on Twitter to find you on Google+. It’s the little things, right?

Next? Check out the occupation part. Write in your education-related job. At minimum, do those two things.

Want to go above and beyond? (The correct answer is yes.) Add where you live/work. It’ll help folks in your area connect with you. Also, write a little bit of an introduction for yourself. Does it need to be lengthy? Does it need to be worded perfectly? Nope. Let folks know you are an educator as well as a couple areas of education you’re interested in.

Feel free to add more details if you’d like. Bonus points for you, you PLN overachiever! Does your profile at the top of your Google+ page look something like the screenshot below? Excellent!

Now, you need to find people to follow on Google+. Scan all the awesome folks you follow on Twitter. Start searching for these tremendous educators on Google+. Put them into your circles. But what’s a circle? Circles on Google+ are a way to connect with people. Once someone is in your circle - any circle - you see what they share on Google+. Can you have multiple circles? Yes. Can people be in more than one circle? Definitely. If you have multiple circles, they can be used as a way to filter who you follow on Google+.

Pro tip: these awesome educators you’ve circled in on Google+ - whose posts are they sharing? Yup, you guessed it: circle those folks in as well. Similar to Twitter, Google+ isn’t really useful until you start to circle people in. Build that PLN!

Sharing on Google+
So. You’ve got this fancy Google+ account all tricked out. You’ve added people to your circles. Now what do you do with it? Yup, YOU SHARE! But what do you share? Great question. People share their blog posts. People share interesting or thought-provoking articles on Google+. Read an interesting post on Google+? See that +1 button on the lower left corner of the image on the right? Yes, the one with the red arrow pointing to it. Click that button to share this post with everyone that has you in their circles. Additionally, many blogs have a +1 button on them as well. Click that and the cool blog post that you’re reading - on someone’s blog, not on Google+ - will go out to everyone that has you in their circles.

Ready for the next step? You’re darn right you are! Start looking into Google+ communities. These communities can be created by anyone. They can be public or private. Membership can be automatic or moderated. The communities that you are interested in are probably focused on some specific aspect of education. Communities are a great place to get answers to your questions or share your expertise in a given area. Search for the right Google+ communities here. Contribute to the discussion! Share your experiences. Answer other community members questions. Pose questions that you have that you want expert feedback on. Want a couple of communities to join? I dig the 20% Time in Education and Chromebook EDU communities.

Pro tip: when you join a community, check out the notification feature - a little bell on the left side of the page. You probably want notifications off so your inbox isn’t deluged with emails.

The Best Part of Google+: Google Hangouts
Yes. You’re right - I did save the best for last. While I like the features of Google+ I just shared with you, to me what sets Google+ apart is the ability to do Google Hangouts.

What are hangouts? Face to face video conferences. That include easy integration of the Google apps suite. And screensharing capabilities. As well as silly sound effects and costumes that can be superimposed onto your face. And, the best part? These video conferences can be uploaded directly to your YouTube channel for later viewing! (A super easy - and free! - way to screencast, even on a Chromebook!)

Yes, Google Hangouts - and hangouts on air - have almost limitless possibilities. I’ve planned conference presentations - and entire conferences - on them. I’ve piped into conferences remotely to talk about tech tools. Talked with software developers and given them feedback on their products. Done a group video letter of recommendation for a friend. I’ve brought experts into my classroom and connected with other classes all over America. I’ve had conversations that got too big and complex for Twitter get moved to Google hangouts. I talk pedagogy with other history teachers from all over the United States about once a month via Google hangouts. A few of us were even crazy enough to run an edcamp entirely through Google hangouts!

Yes, that was a brain dump of possible uses for Google hangouts. Really, though, the sky is the limit with this awesome tool. Socratic discussions across classrooms? Do it! Remote tech support? Done. The fifteen things you thought of that you could use Google+ for while reading my list? Go out and do them. Soon. Then leave your innovations in the comments section below so everyone else can ‘borrow’ them!