By CUE Member and Guest Blogger Karl Lindgren-Streicher
So, now that you’ve read about how to establish Personal Learning Networks with David Theriault, you went out and interacted – shared what you knew, asked questions, and found and shared cool resources. Nice – you made your first great first step. Then, you started blogging the Jen Wagner way – 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 – Google+ (G+). Yes, G+. It’s worth your time. Believe me.
How? Why? I thought you’d never ask!
Got a Gmail account? Everyone has a G+ account associated with their personal Gmail account. While you may have a Google account set-up through your school’s Google Apps for Education (GAFE) account, my suggestion is to build your G+ PLN through your personal Gmail account. Why? What if you changed jobs? All that work on your GAFE G+ account would disappear.
Here are the steps to create a Google+ Profile
Get a picture up. Now. First step. Want to be super helpful? Use the same profile picture that you used on Twitter for your G+ 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? Complete the occupation section. 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 will 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 G+ page look something like the screenshot to the right? Excellent!
Now, you need to find people to follow on G+. Scan all the awesome folks you follow on Twitter. Start searching for these tremendous educators on G+. Put them into your circles.
BUT WHAT IS A Google+ CIRCLE?
Circles on G+ are a way to connect with people. Once someone is in your circle – any circle – you see what they share on G+. Can you have multiple circles? Yes. Create a circle for general educators, one for the educators at your school, etc. Can people be in more than one G+ circle? Definitely. If you have multiple circles, they can be used as a way to filter who you follow on G+. You can also choose which circles you want to share to specific
Pro tip: Look at the profile of the awesome educators you’ve circled in on G+ – Whose posts are they sharing? Yup, you guessed it: circle those folks in as well. Similar to Twitter, G+ isn’t really useful until you start to circle people in. Build that PLN!
SHARING ON G+
So, you have this fancy G+ account all tricked out. You’ve added people to your circles. Now what do you do with it? YOU SHARE!
But what do you share? Great question. People share their blog posts. People share interesting or thought-provoking articles on G+. Read an interesting post on G+? 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 “like” a post and if you click the arrow you can share the post with everyone that has you in their circles.
Additionally, many blog platforms have a +1 button at the bottom of each blog post. If you click the +1 at the end of that cool blog post that you’re reading it 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 G+ 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 G+ communities. 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 G+: GOOGLE HANGOUTS
Yes. You’re right – I did save the best for last. While I like the features of G+ I just shared with you, to me what sets G+ apart is the ability to do Google Hangouts.
What are Hangouts?
Hangouts are face to face video conferences that include easy integration of the Google apps suite. You also get 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!
What can you do with Hangouts?
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!
The sky is the limit with G+. Socratic discussions across classrooms? Do it! Remote tech support? Done. The fifteen things you thought of that you could use G+ 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! G+ is the next frontier in Personal Learning Networks.
Want to Learn More About PLNs? Check out these additional articles that go into more detail about your Personal Learning Network (PLN):
- David Theriault: What’s a PLN (Personal Learning Network)? It’s a SuperHero Team Chosen By YOU!
- Jen Wagner: To Blog or Not To Blog…Is No Longer a Question
- Jo-Ann Fox: Twitter is a Teacher SuperPower!
Karl Lindgren-Streicher teaches and learns with 9th and 10th graders, mostly about world history. He believes that school should focus on critical thinking and literacy, and his classroom reflects that. He strongly believes that students should be excited about being at school. He is a member of the Silicon Valley CUE board, an EdCampSFBay organizer, a creator and organizer for EdCampHome and the Michigan Flipped Learning Conference, and a creator and moderator of #CAedchat, a Twitter chat for California educators.