This post was written by Andy Waters @peorbust.
In my last post I promised to take a look at how educators are using Google Hangouts in schools and to share with you a couple of the lesser known Google products that could save you time, effort and energy!
For those that do not know what Hangouts are, here is a quick overview:
Many people think that Hangouts are just about video calls, and whilst this is a big feature of Hangouts, it is not their only feature. Hangouts is also a conversation app that allows the user to have a group conversation and has the ability to allow users to send pictures in the conversations. Conversations are also stored for future reference and if someone is not connected then they will get an alert regarding the conversation the next time they are online. As mentioned already, Hangouts is great for live video calling. This can be with one friend or with up to 10 friends all at the same time. You can even set up group calls with the touch of one button and all of this can be done from your Android or iPhone, your tablet or your computer. Hangouts also allow you to live stream any event with its ‘Hangout on Air’ feature. This means with a couple of clicks of a button you can be sharing your event with a global audience. And what’s more, the recording of the event will be publicly available on Google+ and on your own YouTube channel so that you can continue any conversations started during the event! You can also embed the Hangout on any website that you want to to maximise the number of people that will see it.
Hangouts in Education
In a previous post, I shared how we have used Hangouts at school to do live interviews with candidates that lived overseas. This gave us a much better way to conduct the interview and really allowed us to get to know the candidate. I would have liked to have taken this one step further and asked the teacher to do a ‘Hangout on Air’ whilst they were teaching so that we could have seen them in action but, it was felt that this was not necessary at that point. We did use the Hangout to make the candidate perform a live task for us, a basic in-tray exercise. This gave us a good sense of the candidate and the live video feed made it much more personal than a conference call would have ever been. I also love the idea of holding a revision conference (appropriate time of the year for those of us in the UK!!) through a ‘Hangout On Air’ and am currently planning to do such a thing in between the Maths GCSE papers early in June. This will give us the opportunity to send the recording of the event to the students that could not make it and also to the students that could as a reminder of what was covered. This is a brilliant feature of Hangouts and needs to be explored and exploited by many more teachers.
I have also used the conversational aspect of Hangouts to provide a platform for my students to discuss a task that was set for Home Study. I did start the conversation to make sure that I could see what was being said and the collaborative learning that was happening was very powerful. At one point though, I am sure that I was cut out of a conversation (by a student starting another one and not inviting me!) as the students all suddenly started getting the right answer. I think a picture was shared with the workings so that they could claim to have done the work. I could not prove this though and it remains my only concern about using GAFE in lessons, the lack of control if you are not in the shared conversation or document.
The obvious use for Hangouts is live video lessons, but the 10 person limit does mean that this would probably only be appropriate for older students who get taught in much smaller groups. But imagine the scene: you set a tough assignment at the end of the lesson, allow the students to digest it during the afternoon, you then host a Hangout that evening where questions can be asked and points clarified, the task is then completed independently and handed in the next day. It would overnight wipe out that age old excuse of “I didn’t get it”. It would also allow for some crazy differentiation, with the most able being able to provide the less able with some scaffolding for the answers. It would also give the most able the opportunity to talk through their answers and be directed to the higher order thinking tasks.
Another fantastic use for Hangouts is for staff CPD. Suddenly, you could organise a global event without any of the normal associated costs and get individuals with specific interests talking together and sharing ideas! This seems to happen on a regular basis across the Atlantic and needs to start to happen more in the UK.
My only bugbear with Hangouts is that they are linked to the Gmail account of the individual. Now, with a private Gmail account this does not present any issues but if you have migrated your school email account over to be linked with your GAFE account then you might stumble. At my current school (and we might have just got this wrong!) but the IT admin team have turned off the Gmail accounts as they interfered with the normal school accounts. This has mainly been an issue because we have only migrated students and teachers to the GAFE accounts as they have requested it. I think if we had gone all over then this should not have been an issue but until we do I will be forced to use my personal Gmail account for work related Hangouts.
Other Googly Goodness
I came across this Google product a few months ago and have been using it ever since! Google Alerts allows you to select a topic of interest and to receive email notifications from Google every time it finds new content on the internet. For teachers, this can provide the opportunity to stay up to date with the latest trends in education and to stay up to date with the latest theories and technologies in your chosen subject. This gave me the perfect system of staying up to date with the technology that is being used by top athletes in their quest for perfection. I set up an alert for Altitude training (A2 PE) and have been inundated with results. These have included the pillow tent and the German hypoxic swimming pool. The information was delivered straight to my inbox and meant I saved time and energy and have been able to cite cutting edge technology in my lessons.
There has always been a debate about how teachers can access the latest scholarly literature and Google have found a simple way for this to happen! Google Scholar provides a simple way to search across many scholarly sources and will provide results including abstracts, theses, books, online repositories and universities, a one stop shop for all of your research needs.
As always if you have any questions about any of the content in this post, please leave a comment below and I will answer it.