6 ways Google Hangouts can make any teacher’s life better

Ed Tech

Ed Tech | Monday, January 5, 2015

6 ways Google Hangouts can make any teacher’s life better

Google Hangouts are easy to use and help people and classrooms get connected easily. Some of its features can be game-changing! (Flickr / U.S. Department of Agriculture)

Google Hangouts are easy to use and help people and classrooms get connected easily. Some of its features can be game-changing! (Flickr / U.S. Department of Agriculture)

As the calendar year changes over, I’ve thought about my most game-changing technology over the last 365 days.

I’m thinking about the one I’ve picked up that’s made the most difference.

It has to be Google Hangouts, Google’s “video chat but so much more” tool.

Google Hangouts often makes me think of the movie “Back to the Future 2”, where protagonist Marty McFly travels — coincidentally — to the far-off year 2015. One of the greatest innovations in the movie’s vision of the future, to a 9-year-old version of me, was the video phone. Now, the video phone is here — and it has more functions than the movie imagined!

(By the way, if you’re as big a “Back to the Future” trilogy fan as I am, you might like to see this list of what the movie got right and got wrong about 2015.)

Here are some of the top ways that I’ve really used this tool (in my personal and professional life) over the past year:

1. Connecting with other educators: I’ve been amazed at how easy (and how glitch-free) it’s been to start a video call via Google Hangouts with educators in the United States and beyond. For me, all it has taken is finding them on Google Plus or using their Gmail account in the Hangouts tab. Then, click on the video camera button to start a video call. All you need is a camera and a microphone, and many computers and devices already have them built in. It’s been great to connect with teachers in California and Washington D.C. in the last couple weeks, especially because of all the miles between them and me in Indiana!

2. Using Hangouts on Air to broadcast live: Hangouts on Air is the broadcast version of Google Hangouts. It allows users to make their video calls visible to a specified audience (i.e. public, to your circles, to specific people, etc.). I haven’t used the broadcast capabilities of this much yet, but educators could incorporate this in great ways:

  • Broadcast class to students who are away (sick, homebound or on vacation) (OK, the “on vacation” one may not be realistic …)
  • Broadcast one class to another class (two teachers of the same content with different specializations could teach to each other’s classes by showing the instruction live on a Hangout on Air)
  • Broadcast performances or school events (i.e. plays, sports events, competitions, performances, etc.)
  • Broadcast school board meetings
  • Broadcast regular video messages from the principal live

3. Using Hangouts on Air to record video: This has the greatest potential for me so far. Some of the greatest benefits of my Spanish classes come from the conversational Spanish that happens. When students are absent and return to say, “What did I miss?”, I often say, “We did a lot of great practice but there’s nothing concrete you need to make up.”

Now, with a minute or so of set-up time, I can record the day’s class and have a link to it on my class website in a couple more minutes. I set up a Hangout on Air using my class Google account. I set the audience as “my circles” (which is no one because that account has no one in its circles) and start the broadcast. When it’s done, I can immediately go to the YouTube video and copy the URL to paste on my class website. That way, students can see what happened in class and catch up with everything they missed.

I also used Hangouts on Air to record conversations I had with Joe Marquez about using social media in class and with Rebecca Vieyra about using little-known sensors in devices in class.

(Check out Google’s “learn more” page about Hangouts on Air here.)

4. Connecting with other classrooms: After doing video chats with my Spanish classes and English classes in Valencia, Spain, I was excited and wrote a lot about global connections:

There are lots of ways to find other classes and students, and once you’re connected, there’s a lot that can be shared or experienced together. My resources page for the conference session I lead on connecting classrooms globally has several tips and sites to use.

5. Communicating with text using chat: Google Hangouts has a text chat feature that can keep individuals or entire groups connected. In the lead-up to my trip to the Google Teacher Academy in Austin, Texas, all of the participants used a Hangout chat to keep in touch with each other and share information. I’ve also used to to send quick messages to individuals, and it’s great. The mobile app makes connecting through Hangouts as simple as sending a text message.

6. Using the mobile app: To expound on that last idea, the mobile app makes chatting and video calls easy and accessible. It’s available on Android devices and iOS devices.

[reminder]Have you used Hangouts? What are your favorite ways to use it? Do you have any suggestions for others? If you haven’t used it, what potential do you see for it?[/reminder]

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  • Rebecca Parish says:

    I use Google Hangouts for teaching college students use of architectural design software. The Remote Desktop feature is great for allowing me to make changes directly to a student’s virtual building model while they watch. On a complex model it can save a lot of time over trying to explain to a student what to do. If I then want to make sure the student can make the change independently, I’ll undo what I did, give control back to them, and have them run through the process while I watch.

    Thanks for your helpful posts Matt!

  • I love Google Hangouts too. I LOVE your idea for recording a class lesson. What a fantastic resource for your students. I have been part of Google Hangout On Air sessions that have been recorded, I have used it to communicate with peers to discuss a variety of things, I attended Edcamp Home (all via Google Hangouts…way cool) and I use it on my phone to chat with students who have questions about homework. It is such a fantastic tool! Also….total Back to The Future geek myself!

  • James Dittes says:

    Google Hangouts is the tool I’m planning to add to my teaching this semester. Have you used it to extend learning to after hours, meeting up with students on a set evening or around a TV show or web program?

  • We use YouTube Live (which is basically Hangouts on Air, but HOA is blocked in my district) to live-stream our morning announcements into classrooms each morning. We also used it to stream our school spelling bee into classrooms so that we wouldn’t have to worry about the audience disrupting the spellers. With that we had one camera on the speller and another camera (logged in through a different gmail account) on the person reading the words. I was able to switch back and forth between each camera. I know that HOA can switch on its own based on which microphone is activated, but the reader and speller were close enough together that we only used one microphone.

    YouTube Live is in the YouTube Creator Studio under Video Manager –> Live Events

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