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Google+ as a Teacher Tool
posted by: Melissa | October 11, 2013, 06:34 PM   

As noted earlier, October is Connected Educator Month – a month focusing on helping educators connect and form PLNs (personal learning networks) through the internet.  Much has been written about using popular sites like Twitter and Pinterest as ways for teachers to connect, but often lost in the mix has been Google+.  I find this a tragedy, because Google+ is quickly becoming my favorite way to connect with other educators from across the country.


 To start, you need to have a basic understanding of how Google+ works.  Google+, like all Google products, is genius in its simplicity and comprised of the following components:

  • Stream: This is like your Twitter feed or newsfeed in Facebook.  This is where you’ll see the updates that come in from your friends and communities.
  • Circles: This feature allows you to organize your contacts into different groups.  You’ll follow anyone you add to one of your circles, and like Twitter, you do not need their permission to follow someone or add them to a circle.
  • Communities: These are online groups organized by interest area.  Joining communities has been the main way that I’ve expanded my PLN through Google+.
  • Hangouts: Are the space created by Google for live audio and video discussions.  Hangouts can be private or public and can host up to 10 users at a time.

The key to using Google+ effectively is following the right people and communities.  Adding people you want to follow is relatively easy, especially since Google uses its world class search engine to help with the effort.  If you have a Google account with an email, Google will let you know if anyone in your contacts also has a Google+ account.  If you don’t, you can link your contacts from another email if you so choose.

What’s great about Google+ is that it also allows you to add people by topic through using it’s ‘Discover’ feature.  To use this feature, just go to ‘People’ and then click ‘Discover.’  On the left-hand side of your screen, you’ll see a whole bunch of topics and among them is 'education.'  Here you’ll find people and groups that are considered authorities in the area of education.  Just scroll through and click 'follow' on the one’s you’re interested in.  Later, you can add to or prune this list as you need, or sort them into circles.

Picking the right communities is just as easy as finding the right people to follow.  When you first navigate to the communities page, Google will list communities that you might be interested in.  These are generally decided by looking at what the people you’re following participate in, so if you followed a lot of education people, you’ll get a lot of education communities suggested to you.  Click on the communities that you’re interested in and join it, and you’re all set up.

Since Google is looking at the information you provide to make its suggestions, it’s more important here than on other social networking sites that you keep your profile focused and prune those accounts that aren’t serving you well.

Set up correctly, I think you’ll find that Google+ is a great way to connect with other educators.



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