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:
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.
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.
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