So what’s the big deal with Google+? Can’t Facebook and LinkedIn do the same thing?
For me, in my Social Media hemisphere, I use Facebook as a personal communicator and connector with family, high school and post-secondary friends. LinkedIn is my professional site where I can connect with educators, administrators, vendors, educational institutions, etc. The value in using Google+ is that it collects various shared resources and displays them online while allowing patrons to chat, link, highlight, share multimedia, have book talks, create online meetings, offer blended learning opportunities for a variety of educational/professional purposes. With our school division in its third year of GAFE, Google+ now seems a natural way to go to connect our teachers together in an online environment and also connect with others internationally.
Currently, the Google+ main suite of tools contains:
Profile – where you describe yourself, post entries publicly or to specific people/groups. It’s also where the birthdate (not year) is important since this is auto-streamed into your Gcalendar (if you follow that person’s G+) which is a really neat feature.
- It is important that you share just enough educational information about yourself to allow people to see if they would like to follow you. (Just like Twitter, if a person that I would like to follow doesn’t share a brief bio, then I don’t follow them because I don’t really know who they are.)
Circles – is the area where you can group people you follow. They can be put into more than one of your created circles
- If they work in your school but also teach Math, they could be in a School circle as well as a Math circle. This is a great place to move your followers into groups. Makes it really easy to share great information, resources all at once to one group instead of typing everyone’s email address!
Communities – are created by any person who has an active G+ account. They can be public or closed and any posts can further be organized by topic within the specific community. This is a great way to meet, connect and share.
- You’ll see below that our Division has a number of communities that our teachers can join. They are kept open, but shared links from time to time may only be available to our teachers since they are on our portal (intranet), but anyone can join and benefit! There are also many other great educational communities to join. For GAFE, I recommend GEG Alberta, Google Apps in Education, Canadian GAFE Educators, Google Docs and Drive to start. You can also do a search for a particular content area and choose via number of members/posts, etc. Within each community that you either create or join it’s also important to decide if you want the notifications turned on or off.
Events – allows you to announce and schedule both online and offline events.
- An easy way to share activities and invite others to join in on the fun! The ability to say Yes, No or Maybe gives an opportunity for the creator of the event to see who is coming.
Hangouts – a personal video conference tool that allows up to 15 people on different devices to connect. You also do a live hangout that allows up to 100 participants to see with an archive uploaded to your YouTube account.
Photos – This is the place to curate your images.
- Add them directly from your G+ app on a mobile device or upload from a storage/computer. You can create albums to group them easily.
Pages or Local – I don’t know of anyone in my Division using these.
For a great step-by-step tutorial, I recommend using @ericcurts Google+ for Schools document. He does a great job of outlining each step combining text and images. The Gooru also has some solid tutorials that combine brief video clips with text, check out the specific Gooru Google+ Tutorials. And for our teachers, they can also access within their G+ environment, the Synergyse Training Button.
However you use Google+ in your educational environment, you can see that it is filled with many features.