Google Plus in my classroom

I started a 7 week experiment with Google+ in my Tech Essentials class last week.  There are a few parts of the curriculum that I think will lend themselves to being easily (maybe that’s not the right word) integrated into the Google + experiment.  Here are a few initial thoughts on how this might work:

Commenting and Collaborating

As we’re constantly seeking ways to infuse literacy across all subjects, my colleagues and I have had our students complete short reading assignments – typically these have been tech related articles that have been cut out from the newspaper.  We’ll talk them through how to complete a “close read” of the article and pull out main points and areas of particular interest.  They will then spend some time reflecting on the significance of the article before they participate in a small or large group discussion.  Some time ago, this type of reflecting happened with pen and paper. If the students had access to a computer, they might print out this reflection and hand it to you. This method is simple and straightforward but it has some limitations in a world that is increasingly digital, social, and collaborative. With Google+, I’d like to take this process of personal reflection on a reading and infuse it with an element of social collaboration.

Our first attempt at this was with a reflection based on a Social Media Info-graphic.   I shared the Info-Graphic with my students via a Circle in Google+, they read the graphic, spent a minute gathering their thoughts, then they started interacting with one another (and with me) in the comment section.  I’ll have to do some coaching this week on the differences between helpful and unhelpful comments but for a first attempt, I think it went pretty well.

Posting a “Social blog”

One of the main aspects of any “social network” is the ability to share thoughts, reflections, status updates, etc. Google+ helps users control who sees these posts through what it calls Circles. Instead of having posts be public to the world, students can share these posts with limited audiences. My students have a circle setup for their particular course so that they can limit their audience to the students and teacher in their class.  Now that they have this circle setup, one of the assignments they will complete this week is to find a tech related article in their particular area of interest and share it with the class circle.  Along with sharing the article, they will write a a paragraph explaining the significance of the article for them and the world around them.  Other students will then be able (perhaps required?) to interact, ask questions, offer feedback, draw connections, etc.

Communities and Research

The Communities in Google+ have potential for helping students research and stay aware of current tech trends. Communities allow users to name specific areas of interest, from which Google will automatically pull in relevant articles and posts. In week 3 of the experiment, I will have students seek out a few important communities to follow that will help them learn about a specific topic related to their particular interests.  They will use these communities as one means of conducting initial research for a career exploration unit.

I may not say this after 7 weeks but right now I feel excited about the potential of this platform as a means to help my students navigate safely into their connected future.

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