25 Great Google+ Tips for Teachers

Some schools are just getting on board with Facebook and Twitter, but now there’s a new kid in town: Google+, a social network poised to make a difference, especially for educators. Google+ is different from other social networks in that it allows you to carefully limit who you’re sharing information with, while at the same time opening up resources for finding information across the entire network. With these features and more, the relatively new service offers a great option for teachers interested in social media. Whether you’ve spent some time with it or you’re brand new, these 25 tips can help you maximize your use of Google+ for the classroom and beyond.

  1. Use Hangouts for teaching: If you’re a teacher on the go, Google+ Hangouts can be used to conduct virtual classrooms. Even if you’re not teaching an online class, this feature can be used while you’re away from campus.
  2. Sparks can provide a way to follow research topics: Google+ Sparks allow students to follow specific research topics, building an automatic stream of information that will constantly update. This gives students something to discuss, and the opportunity to find information from resources they may not have thought of before.
  3. Students can collaborate through Circles: With circles, students can work on course projects, share resources, and more through what some experts call “targeted sharing” — a great ability for sharing information in classes and topics.
  4. You can keep parents in the loop: For teachers who need to keep parents informed, Google+ offers a great opportunity. Just add them to a circle, and update when appropriate.
  5. Get organized to clean up the noise: Add circles for people that update a lot, or create them for people you don’t need to hear from all of the time. This way, you can be sure that you’re only hearing from people you want to see updates form on a regular basis.
  6. Crosspost your updates: If you’re using Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other social networks, Google+ may seem like just another box to update. Take the time and work needed to update them all out of the equation by cross-posting updates all at once.
  7. Share Google Reader posts: You can use Google Reader along with Google+, highlighting interesting articles and blog posts for students.
  8. You can use Hangouts as office hours: It’s not always easy to make it to your office, and you may not have to thanks to Google+. With Hangouts, you can host an open video chat forum in which you hang out and allow students to drop in and discuss with you.
  9. Search within your university: Google+ offers users the ability to enter information about where they work and go to school, and it also allows you to search for it. That means you can find all of the students, faculty, and staff at your university with a simple search on Google+.
  10. Drag and drop media: Instead of going through the process of searching and uploading, you can drag and drop media. You just have to have the edit window open and drop it in.
  11. Make eye contact: As with any video chat, eye contact might feel a little awkward. One Google+ teacher discovered that she had to look into the camera to make the connection.
  12. Google+ works with Google Docs and Calendar: Integrate Google+ with other Google tools for the ultimate in collaboration in your classroom.
  13. You can disable resharing: If you have a post that shouldn’t be shared outside of your classroom or colleague group, use the option to disable resharing outside of its intended circle to control who sees it.
  14. Teach students about privacy: Although Google + offers great privacy tools, students using the service may not be aware of them. Help them out by spending a session teaching about getting privacy straight from the start.
  15. Pay attention to who you’re updating: You may have friends, family, colleagues, students, and even complete strangers on Google+, and not all of them need so see the same thing. Use the option to select who sees your message.
  16. Exciting content can be shared with Instant Upload: If you’ve got great things going on in your class, Google+ can help get the word out. With Instant Upload, photos and videos from your mobile phone can be uploaded and shared right away.
  17. You can send private messages: Send a private message by only sharing your post with them, and disabling resharing.
  18. Shorten your Google+ page: Make it easier for students and colleagues to navigate to your Google+ page by shortening it. You can do so at http://www.gplus.to.
  19. Move your learning management system to Google+: David Parry, assistant professor of emerging media and communications at the University of Texas at Dallas, believes that Google+ can be an alternative to learning management systems like Blackboard.
  20. Be careful not to put walls around educational content: It’s one thing to protect photos and grades, but it’s another to keep educational content out of the public eye. Be careful about restricting access to educational materials.
  21. You can migrate data from Facebook: If you’ve invested a lot in Facebook, you don’t have to completely abandon it. Export your information and bring it over to Google+.
  22. Stay in touch with former students: You can create circles for former students, giving you the ability to share job postings and interesting articles with them in a relevant way.
  23. Watch out for slideshow integration: There are rumors that Google+ Hangout may soon have integration with PowerPoint or slideshows on OpenOffice, making it possible to do entire lectures using Google+. Keep an eye out for this potential option, and in the meantime, familiarize yourself with using Hangouts.
  24. Archive discussions: Post articles, questions, and more on Google+, and you’ll have the option to archive the discussion with a permalink that can be shared with your entire class, or even future classes.
  25. Use different Circles for different purposes: The options for Circles are virtually unlimited, and teachers can set up different Circles for different purposes. For example, you can create a Circle for announcements, one for your current class, and even Circles for students by category.

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