Last year I took a class where I became a certified Flat Classroom Teacher.  It was designed by Julie Lindsay and Vicki Davis who were featured in Tom Friedman's book, The World is Flat.  In that course, the educators spoke of breaking down the classroom walls with the tool of the internet while interacting and collaborating with schools around the country.  It was through this program that I developed the collaborated project called How Could War Look Different? where social studies teachers who are teaching about wars (any war) can come to the website and utilize the template to collaborate with other countries to reveal how each classroom across the world (especially the participants in the wars, learn about the war.)

In an effort to further flatten the classroom, I have begun to explore the uses of Google+ for education.  Google+.  Google+ is Google's version of a social networking platform similar to Facebook and Twitter.  The beauty of Google+, However is its ability to group your "friends" into distinct circles.  This way you can separate who is allowed to read what post, so my educational posts can be read by educators, my goofy posts can be read by my friends and my truly ridiculous posts will be shielded from Grandma's prying eyes.  It is neat and necessary and great for education.  Students can be batched into one "circle"---conceivable, as I believe right now, for some reason, the joining age is 18.  And that way, student posts can be kept strictly to students.  

One of Google+';s greatest features is Google Hangouts, where you can essentially video chat with up to ten individuals in one room.  The great part is that there are nine small video windows at the bottom and one main screen at the top and as people "take over the floor" their screen is pushed to the top/main screen for prime viewing.  It is truly an amazing interactive service.  Over the summer, I started an educational broadcast called The Power of Ten:  Discussing Education's Future which was broadcast in real time and archived on the show's website www.edhangout.com

For about seven weeks I had some pretty powerhouse educational guests participate in the show, including Great Neck Southj's own Heather Peretz and Doug Moore.  It went very well and over three hundred people watched the show each week, but it often crashed and I was unable to get through all of my tapings.

Today, Google announced several new features to Google+ Hangouts.  First is the ability to record and broadcast any of the shows to Google+ and to YouTube.  Several other features were also added and they seemed to be geared toward educators.  There is now a screen sharing function to Google+ Hangouts.  What this means is that you can broadcast your computer screen to anyone with the link.  It basically puts GoToMeeting out of business.  

There is also the ability to add Google Docs and notes to the Google+ Hangout.  Essentially what this means is that during a meeting or a class, students can take collaborative notes on the meeting/lecture and have the ability to access it later at their leisure.  Thinking more globally, if you invite two people from England, two people from Germany, two people from Japan, two people from Russia and host the Hangout in a classroom from the USA, you could easily have an incredible global discussion with notes and a group video discussion on the impact of World War II.  The educational value cannot be overstated.

Currently, we do not have access to Google+ or Google+ Hangouts through our filter system, but hopefully we can break down the walls of the system, if with educational rationale in hand, we can open the eyes of our students and our administrators to the world of possibilities out there.  There is so much that awaits us in the future of education.  I'm looking forward to seeing how it all plays out.

What are your thoughts on all of these potentialities?

 


04/11/2012 06:40

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