During the ISTE 2014 session, Google+ Hangouts: Communication, Collaboration, and Creativity in One Spot, Kyle Pace—an instructional technology specialist at Lee’s Summit School District, a BusinessPLUS customer in Missouri—and Erin Klein, a second-grade teacher and author, shared ideas for integrating Google+ Hangouts into the classroom to get students connecting, collaborating, and creating.
Google+ Hangouts is free video-conferencing tool for connecting with up to 10 people. With Google+ Hangouts, students who are 13 years of age and older can share ideas with experts and see the world through the screen of their computer or mobile device. It is available through Google+, which is part of Google Apps for Education. To use in a classroom setting, educators must first set up their Google+ profile and have available a computer, microphone, and webcam.
Pace says Google+ Hangouts opens a world of new possibilities for education. “Learning does not have to be contained within the four walls of your classroom anymore. We don’t have to worry about going anywhere physically because we can go so many places virtually now,” says Pace. “Google+ Hangouts is kind of the equivalent … of everyone sitting around the front porch and chatting. [It] allows you to get a group of people together and have a conversation … and start to collaborate.”
According to Pace, the benefits of using Google+ Hangouts include:
- Available through existing Google accounts
- No extra software needed
- Saves time, increases productivity
- Great add-on apps are available
For Klein, Google+ Hangouts adds a new dimension to her work in the classroom. “It was a really easy transition to bring Google+ Hangouts into the classroom … just because it is so seamless and it is free,” she says. “I think the collaborative feature is really a key part. Whenever you add that plus 10 people to a hangout, I think it brings a whole new element to it.”
Pace and Klein suggested the following uses Google+ Hangouts in education:
- Virtual field trips to anywhere in the world
- Invite authors, scientists, and other experts into the classroom
- Offer virtual office hours/tutoring for students
- Create professional development/mentoring opportunities for teachers
- Build instructional practice by inviting others into your classroom for observation and feedback
Google+ Hangouts features standard functionality, including chat, screensharing, remote desktop, and integration with Google Drive. Additionally, it offers a variety of special features, including Google Effects, Hangout toolbox, and YouTube.
Google offers guidance about using this tool on Google Connect Classrooms. Other resources for educators shared during the session include: