Google+ is a relatively new social networking platform and complements the suite of tools, which includes Gmail, Maps, Docs and YouTube, already available to Google account holders. Users can quickly and easily share messages, photos, videos and links through ‘Sharing what’s new’, similar to Facebook’s ‘Status Updates’. Again, like Facebook, conversations are built up through comments, which can also contain links. You have the option to disable comments and lock individual posts. Google+ also has +1 buttons, similar to Facebook’s ‘Like’ button, where users can easily share content both in Google+ and on external websites that they find interesting.
A neat feature is the integration of Google Docs with Google+ – a shared Google doc will appear automatically in the group stream and can be accessed fully (in Docs) by clicking on it’s title. So, you could create a poll/ survey using a Google Form…
Maps in Google+ are used for directions when you create (organise) an event. Like Facebook, they disappear when the event has passed.
Videos can be uploaded (my 11MB video took 14 minutes from on campus) or linked instantaneously from YouTube. Although SlideShare and Prezi presentations can be linked to, sadly no thumbnail image is displayed in the timeline.
Google have just released Google+ Communities (December 2012) where content can be organised into Categories. Communities can be public or private, although you are not able to change this setting once the community has been created. If you have a private community, members cannot invite others, which could be useful when using Google+ with students. The Owner of a Community can give other members permissions to be Moderators and Owners, enabling them to remove posts or even ban members if necessary. Once promoted, these can also assign permissions to others.
Sharing Content via Circles
If you don’t want to have a Community, you can organise your ‘friends’ into ‘Circles’, making it easy to share content with the ‘right’ people. Circles are personal to you – no-one can see which circles you have assigned them to.
For collaborative working we would recommend that you set up a circle specifically for your group, selecting and inviting members. Although you can invite them using any email address, they will need to sign up for a Google account to participate. To invite further members, share the circle, making sure you tick the ‘Include yourself in shared circle’ checkbox, and give them specific instructions as illustrated below…
Any member of the group has the ability to share the circle with others.
Video-conferencing via ‘Hangouts’
One of the best features in Google+ is its video-conferencing capability, referred to as ‘hangouts’. Up to 9 people can ‘hangout’ at any one time. A range of augmented reality accessories, ‘Effects’, can be worn by participants during the hangout which are very amusing. On a serious note, you can also collaborate directly onto a Google Doc, to which you can also assign ‘Hangout Notes’ or discuss SlideShare presentations and/ or YouTube videos. There are other ‘apps’ available – ‘Symphonical’ facilitates brainstorming and includes a SWOT analysis template; ‘Scoot & Doodle’ is a collaborative drawing package. You can also ‘ScreenShare’, looking at chosen specific sections of your desktop (and whatever software you’re using at the time).
Text chat is available with all these options (although this didn’t work for me in Firefox – we would recommend using Google’s own browser, Chrome).
Pros of using Google+:
- free and easy-to use
- private communities facilitate student groups
- posts are displayed in chronological order
- integrated with other Google tools – Docs, Drive, YouTube, GMail
- ‘hangouts’ for video-conferencing/ online collaboration
Cons of using Google+:
- not as popular as Facebook, students may see it as ‘yet another account’
- circles can be confusing and can be shared with anyone by any member (although they wouldn’t see content from people not in their own circles).
- not supported by the University
Recommended particularly for video-conferencing although Google+ also facilitates quick and easy sharing and commenting on messages, documents, photos and videos
Find out more…
- “Get Into Google+: A Guide For Everyone” booklet from makeuseof.com
- See ‘10 Ways to use Google+ in Education‘ – post by Sarah Horrigan, Learning Technologies Manager at the University of Sheffield