Once again Google have managed to cause a stir (see Google Wave) where some people get an invite to a new product, then slowly the invites spread and we become divided between ‘haves and ‘have nots’ and probably some ‘I couldn’t give a monkey’s’ too.
What’s the current project/toy? Google+, that’s what.
Now, I know others have written about it elsewhere (like here) and their thoughts are as valid as anyone’s, but here are mine. Also I must stress that I have only had this since Friday (thanks @kvnmcl) and I haven’t played a lot.
You might be wondering how can I be in a position to discuss a product I haven’t used properly? Well it’s because I want to see what the point of it is first. I currently use social media and I love social media but do I need another tool to use? I have Twitter for school stuff, personal development, chatting to fellow teachers and sharing ideas. I have Facebook to…err….keep in contact with my friend in Canada and some people I went to school with. So, where does Google+ fit in?
The idea is that a user will have different circles of friends/contacts/whatever (I’ll use contacts from here on in) and these contacts can be grouped into schoolmates, people I went to Uni with, football team, and so on. People can be in more than one circle e.g. your mate Bob plays on your football team but also went to school with you. You can then send information, pictures and so on to a particular circle. You can also check your main information feed and just see information from certain circles too. So it groups people very well and removes a lot of the noise that Facebook has problems with.
I think my major gripe with it at the moment is that all of my contacts on Google+ at the moment are people I know through Twitter, so the only circle I have is “Twitter people”. I guess I could make one for Google people and so on to help a bit but still it feels a bit like I’m looking at the Facebook accounts of the people I follow on Twitter. Maybe in time this will develop but will my friends be tempted away from Facebook or will this just become Facebook for educators? One benefit is that it seems like their posts stick around for a bit longer. On Twitter it is easy to miss things but on Google+ they seem to stay a bit. Maybe it’s because I only have 37 contacts? Will it all become to much when there are 500+ people or will I need to be selective with my circles?
Now this might all sound a bit negative, but maybe it’s because I can’t see how I will use it outside of school. Inside of school, that’s a different beast entirely.
So what are the school plans? Well let’s just assume that Google+ will become part of Google Apps for Education. If it does then we have an incredible tool on our hands.
The reason for this is that I want to teach social networking in school, I want my children to know the dangers of it but more importantly I want them to know the benefits too. After all, everything I learn these days is through social networking, blogs, tweets etc so it seems only right that I also show them the way to use these tools too.
I investigated Edmodo and I know lots of people rave about it but our children didn’t see the point. Admittedly I only tried with a small group of children but the first thing they asked was “Why can’t we message our friends?” It seems in Edmodo you can message everyone but not just one child. The children currently use Gmail for this purpose so Edmodo was quickly turned off again. But Google+ could give us the platform we need.
Imagine different year groups, classes and even tables in different circles. You could share a link with your whole class then assign a different Google Doc template link to each table for them to complete their work. They can of course chat to each other and collaborate as they do it.
When they get home they can continue the discussions using the Hangout video conferencing feature if they like. They can then share their finished projects with the whole class and their teacher too. They can also keep a social side of their Google+ if they want to.
The question remains though, how much control will I get as an administrator? Will I be able to see what my pupils “get up to” without me? Currently in docs/email/sites etc, I can only see their content if they share it with me. I imagine the same will be true with Google+ so education and trust will be needed.
It is exciting, but for me, it’s all just a bit too new to make any clear decision about it. Ask me again in six months time!