Sunday, July 1, 2012

Google and Google +: A Teacher's Cloud Helper

Google +, this is my newest success story for my classroom in the realm of WEB 2.0 and its ability to make life as a teacher easier. Google + is a social network very similar to the more popular Facebook. Google + however is, in my opinion, a super tool for classroom teachers. In order to understand Google + you first must realize that Google + is more than just a social network but one piece to an intricate puzzle that Google has woven together and continues to mend new improvements into it.

The foundation of Google + is what is known as your Circles. Circles is the term used for the categories of relationships a person might have in their lives. In my case, I have family, personal friends, colleagues, technology networks, education networks, students (broken down by class) and parents (broken down by class) all groups of people that I interact with and wish to share information about my life. I however do not want to share my personal life with business or students/parents. I also do not want to share with my family and friends newsletters or homework that I send out to my students and parents. This is where the Circles come into play, I decide based on the information who I wish to send it to, similar to an email distribution list but with the perk that it’s online (Cloud Based).

Google + interfaces with Blogger and this is where Google + and Circles take on a whole new meaning. One app that I utilize almost daily from my iPhone is my Blogger app. What I do is take a snapshot of my whiteboard with homework listed for the day (or week) and post it to a Blogger page that I have set up for Class Assignments. After making the appropriate comments and attaching the picture into the app I send it off to be posted to the Blogger site. It is at this point that Google + and Circles come into play as I am automatically asked if I want it posted to my Google + page and to which Circles. I click on the appropriate student and parent Circles and each one is notified of the post. For those without a Google + account they receive an email of the homework. This whole process takes 60 seconds at best and eliminates any questions that students or parents might have about class assignments.

In addition to homework I also post my class news on a separate Blogger that is for my news and newsletters. Any notes or charts from class will be posted to the Assignment Blogger if they are complex for student review later at home. Google +, Blogger and the rest of the Google Suite of Apps have become a part of my classroom’s daily habits. I post to the site regularly various pieces of information and students either comment on the Blogger or use another great Google app, Google Voice to text me questions. Google Voice, more on that app and its uses in another post.

Google + for students in my classroom helps them in a 24/7 mindset that they are able to access information from class on the Blogger Assignment page. This might be simply the homework or a more complex Thinking Map that was drawn during a Whole Group or Small Group activity. The use of the combined Blogger and Google + Circles ensure that the outcome of completing assignments and understanding the curriculum from class lessons is viewed in the original classroom format (picture of information from the classroom). Looking at the HOTS from Bloom in this part of Google + is limited but the application of using the Hangout feature of Google + allows for video conferencing and here is where Google + steps up the level of Bloom. Students are able to Hangout with one another at home for assignment activity, Hangout in the class with specialists in topic areas such as book authors, historians, museum presenters, etc. In having a Hangout they are able to ask questions of individuals who are specialists in the field of study gathering more information than they would normally from a textbook. Learning goes Beyond the Classroom.

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