Monday, February 11, 2013

You Mean Google+ is Not Just For Chats and Hangouts?

As we educators are aware, our jobs in the classroom do not get left behind in school when the dismissal bell rings.  Rather, our jobs come home with us.  From calling parents during the evening hours, to grading papers, to preparing our lessons, it's as if teachers are always "on call."  To complicate our lives even more, we live in a world of instant gratification; we are constantly waiting for an phone call, an e-mail, a message, a text, or a tweet.  In short, a teacher's job never ends.  Even while on vacation, teachers spend time refreshing their current curricula and methods since professional development is critical in order to avoid burnout.

One method of professional development is connecting to other educators via Social Networking.  Believe it or not, it comes as a shock to many teachers (specifically those who are unfamiliar with Web 2.0 Tools) that the terms "professional development" and "Social Networking" can be used together in the same sentence.  The purpose of social networking is to communicate with others in order to learn, advance, and extend what we know.  By networking with others, we are able to share ideas and information with them.  There are many free social networking websites and you can find a detailed list by visiting the following link at Wikipedia:  Some of the more popular social networking websites include: FacebookTwitterPinterestMy Space, and Google+.  Many people object to Social Networking websites; they consider them to be a waste of time and/or dangerous.  My answer to that is going to be the same as everything else in life - it all depends on how it's used.  For the purpose of this blog, I am going to reflect on my experiences using Google+ as a professional development tool.

Several years ago, I created a Gmail account for the purpose of chatting with family.  As Google and its apps slowly crept their way into my everyday life - especially with its acquisition of YouTube in 2006, I was using Google more and more.  Several months ago, I began using Google+ for the purpose of Google Hangouts in order to connect with other educators who are participating in my Educational Technology program.  We set up weekly Hangout sessions on Sunday mornings to discuss the topics that we were learning.  Although our course is online and is asynchronous, having "real time" with the other course participants and with our course facilitator has been extremely beneficial.

There is much more on Google+.  As a Social Networking site, there are many communities that educators can join in order to share and collaborate with other educators.  For instance, one community that I joined and have found to be very helpful is the Google Apps for Education - Education in the 21st Century! community.  As there are close to 2,500 members in this community, there is no lack of collaboration here.  Since members of this community are located all over the world, I have received prompt responses from other educators regarding my technical issues with Google Apps.  In fact, I have received faster responses from fellow educators in this community than answers from Google when posting on the forum through the Google site.

Another community that I have joined via Google+ and have found to be very helpful in education is the SEE-SMART Exemplary Educators community.  This community was created for SMART Exemplary Educators.  Through this community, am able to connect with other SMART Exemplary Educators around the world.  We discuss ideas in education, integration of technology in education, and of course, using SMART products in our classrooms in order to increase student achievement.

Using Google+ has been very easy for me.  Not only do I enjoy sharing and collaborating with other educators, but it's a great feeling to be connected to educators all over the globe who share the same values.  Google+ is easily accessible from anywhere - including from mobile devices.  Have an iOS device?  Then try the Google+ app.  It's simple to use.  One of the many great features of the app is that I can set up instant uploads of my photos and videos.  Gone are the days of connecting my digital camera to my computer via cable or by inserting a memory card into the slot.  Instantly uploading my photos and videos with Wi-Fi is definitely more efficient and I don't have to lift a finger in order to do it.

So go ahead and try Google+ today!  With all of the communities focused on Education, you are bound to find one - or several that you would like to join.  From Google, to Math, to Mac, to Libraries to Raspberry Pi and more, there are definitely many communities for you to discover on Google+.  And, if for some reason you do not find one that suits your needs, go ahead and start your own Google+ community and invite your fellow educators to join.  You will be very glad that you did!  

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