Ideas For Using Google+ Hangouts In the Classroom

Google_Hangout_Logo_128x128Google is trying to revolutionize the online social world, and it might just succeed. One of the features built into the network is something called “Hangouts”. We want to share a few thoughts on how we think Hangouts might be beneficial  in your classroom.

A Hangout is, essentially, a video chat room for up 10 people. When starting your hangout you can choose your different circles of friends or colleagues to hangout with. It then opens the room and allows anyone from your selected circles to join in the hangout, up to 10 people at once. As long as there are 2 people in the hangout, it will remain open. In other words it isn’t hosted or owned by the creator, which allows the conversation to move and evolve in a real fashion and less constrained by the tool. Although video chatting isn’t new, this concept of a hangout is a giant leap forward.

At Friends’ Central, we have not enabled Google+ for students yet so if you want to try using Hangouts with your students, they would have to have set up personal Google+ accounts. In the future, students may have the ability to use Google+ with their FCS Google accounts.

Here are some ideas you could try to get started using Hangouts with your students.

Q&A/Tutoring – Imagine this…the teacher opens a hangout specifically dedicated for Q&A or tutoring. Students come and go listening to questions/answers, and asking questions of their own.

Extended Discussion – After a classroom discussion, a student opens a hangout to further explore the topic. They bounce ideas off other students or teachers, or perhaps other people that are knowledgeable about that topic.

Scheduled discussions – Groups could schedule hangouts to hold a discussion or debate about their course material. Authorities on the subject matter could be invited to add extra value to the discussion.

Global Classroom discussions – Classrooms from across the the globe could hangout together and discuss subject matter, bringing in various points of view from the varying cultures and backgrounds.

Online classes – Group video chat within a social network is perfect for online learning. It is a way to still get the personal interaction without having to physically meet. On top of all that, the 10 person limit is a great size for a learning environment.

Presentation collaboration – Students giving a presentation together can meet when it is convenient for each member. They can talk face to face and work together to grow and develop their ideas and presentation strategies. While chatting they could simultaneously use Google docs or any other collaboration tool to create and polish their presentation materials.

Guest Speakers – Guest Speakers could speak to multiple classrooms or schools simultaneously. It’s a superb use of time and resources. I would love to see people dedicating an hour or so a few times a year, for hanging out in classrooms.

Author Visits – Librarians could start following all the authors that are pertinent to their students. Authors could post times that they will start a hangout and ask for students to submit questions. The Author could get to talk to many schools at once, which could add to the overall content of the the conversation with the Author.

Podcasts  Another great feature of G+ hangouts is the ability to record a conversation, for use as an interview or a discussion in a podcast; you can save it automatically as a YouTube video afterwards. This is really useful for low-budget podcasting. You can also go “on air” and broadcast the live event well beyond the ten-person limit in the hangout. Check out Breaking Bio for a great example.

Presentations  Start a Hangout and share your screen and use Google Presentations or SlideShare to give a practice presentation to colleagues from afar. This feature could easily be used for a number of other applications, like giving online tutorials (shared On Air, which you would then save as a YouTube video for posterity).

Collaboration  Create a private Community with collaborators or students, and schedule your meetings using Google+ Hangouts instead of Skype calls or conference calls. Why? Well, first, Google+ Hangouts tend to be higher-quality and less buggy than Skype. Secondly, Hangouts have very cool integrated app features, including the ability to work collaboratively on Google Drive documents during the Hangout. You can also use a virtual whiteboard app like Cacoo to collaboratively draw out your ideas or workflow. The Symphonical app allows you to create tasks, use virtual sticky notes, or other Getting-Things-Done tools for task management. You can even reward particularly good ideas with applause sound effects using Google Effects.