One of the great opportunities that social media provides is the ability to find, connect with and learn from people with whom we share interests and passions. Because of social media, I know that it doesn’t matter if I am the only person who teaches a particular subject in my building. I know that even if I can’t find the professional development I am looking for in my building, I can find it among my colleagues on the web. I also know that I can find that one other teacher in a thousand who wants to, say, build a life-sized replica of the TARDIS to use as a podcasting booth. Thanks to social media, I am not alone.
In fact, this Challenge is a great example of how we can connect and learn together through social media. Tomorrow, you’ll learn about another example based on Twitter chats. Today, I wanted to focus on one of my favorite ways to connect with groups of like-minded educators through Google+ generally, and Google+ communities specifically.
If you are an educator in the EVSC (or in another Google Apps for Education school), you already have access to Google+ through your school Gmail account (in the EVSC it is your firstname.lastname@example.org account). Google+ is Google’s social media piece. In some ways, it is similar to Facebook. In other ways, it is similar to Twitter. In others, it is similar to Skype. Obviously, there is a lot here, and more than I can cover in a single post. If you want to learn more about Google+ in general, I recommend the video and links below as a great starting point:
One of my favorite features of Google+ is the Communities feature. Communities are spaces in which groups of Google+ users gather to share and work together. Inside Google+ Communities, users can post updates, make announcements, share resources, ask questions and receive answers, invite other community members to Google+ Hangouts or other events, and generally collaborate. Here’s a short intro video:
Communities can be private or open to the public. They can be organized around any topic or group as well. Inside a Community, the owner can set topic categories to help users organize the content. Google+ Communities could serve as an excellent learning management system as well, but would require that Google+ be open to students, which is not the case in the EVSC.
Users can create Communities or can search for communities that already exist to join. There are many great education-focused Google+ Communities. Here are a few communities that you might want to check out:
- Educational Leadership
- Teaching Resources Community
- Google Apps for Education
- EVSC eRevolution Conference
- Play-Based Learning Community
How to Get Started
Once you are logged in, you will want to open the Google+ feature of your Google Apps for Education account. You can get there by clicking on the apps grid or your +Name in the upper right-hand corner of any Google Search window. You can also just go directly to http://plus.google.com.
From inside the Google+ interface, you will then want to hover over the Home button in the upper-left until you see the options drop-down. Then, select Communities.
From that window, you can search for and join communities, have communities recommended to you, and even create your own communities. Public communities will have a button that says “Join” and private communities will have a button that says “Ask to Join.”
There are plenty of resources for getting started with Google+ Communities. Here are few notable ones:
- Create a Community for your School
- Create a Community for your PLCs
- Join a Community for your Subject Area.
- Join a Community for your Grade-Level.
- Create a Community for your Organization.
- Create a Community for your Team, Program, or Activity.
- Join a Community based on a Professional Interest (e.g. PBL, Maker Spaces, EdTech, RTI).
- Join a Community based on Your Role (e.g. Administrator, Coach, Teacher, Media Specialist, Counselor).
- If available, create a Community for your Classes.
- Create Communities for Groups that you belong to across Organizations.
Why it Matters (Teaching Rubric)
Having a space that enables effective collaboration with colleagues (Competency 4.1) and an online tool that opens up multiple opportunities for ongoing professional development (Competency 4.2), is tremendously valuable to educators today.
Of course, Google+ is only one of many social media resources that provide professional growth opportunities and support collaboration. Many teachers use Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, EduClipper, and other tools to connect and learn online.
Today’s challenge is to look at the options in a Collaboration and Professional Learning tool like Google+ Communities and reflect on how you could use this resource to connect with and learn from other educators. Share those reflections in the comments below and if you have another great tool for collaboration and professional learning please feel free to add it to your comments as well. Commenting on others responses is a great way to share ideas and make educational connections, just remember that “active participation” is more than just an “attaboy” for someone else. Enjoy!
How to Comment
If you are an EVSC Employee, login to the website using the Orange Login button on the menu bar. Once logged in, return to this post and click inside the comment box and submit your comment.
If you’re not an EVSC Employee, choose one of the social media login buttons available•