Using Google Hangouts is a great way to connect and collaborate with other classrooms. It’s also a powerful tool for making connections, working collaboratively and introducing the wider world to your students. Many educators have embraced Hangouts to enrich both their students’ learning experiences and their own professional development. You can connect students with their peers from around the country, or even from abroad, if time zone differences permit.
How to Get Started on Hangouts
- If you don’t already have a Google account, sign up for one.
- To use Hangouts on your smartphone or tablet, download the appropriate app for your device in the app store.
- You can also use Hangouts on a computer. If you’re using a Chrome browser, get the extension in the Chrome Store. If you prefer Safari, Firefox or Internet Explorer, download and install the plug-in.
- If you need more information, here’s a quick “Get Started With Hangouts” guide from Google.
7 Ways Teachers Are Using It
- Form a virtual book club: Classes that are reading the same book or similar genres can discuss novels together and recommend books to one another. Before the Hangout, have each class brainstorm 10 questions they want to ask their book club partners. Then, send the questions to the other class before the meeting date to allow students ample time to construct their answers. When the classes meet, they each take turns asking and answering one another’s questions.
- Participate in a “mystery” Hangout: In this activity, two classrooms video-chat with each other but do not reveal their individual locations. Before meeting online, both classes research facts about their own state and create clues about their location. Then, each class takes turns asking “yes” or “no”-type questions in a race to solve the mystery. More details on how to get started can be found on my blog here. To find classes to connect with yours, visit the Mystery Location Calls Google+ Community or reach out to members of the Connected Classrooms Workshop Google+ Community.
- Rethink student presentations: Projects and presentations are authentic assessments that many teachers have embraced over the recent years. However, with Hangouts, teachers can take this assignment a step further by recruiting parents, community members or career professionals to be their captive audience. This is a perfect finale as a Project-Based Learning (PBL)-culminating activity. What better way to make learning real and relevant than to have students share their work with adults who can provide constructive feedback at the end of the presentation? Think Shark Tank but with much nicer panelists.
- Work on projects together: Classes that are studying similar themes or topics can collaborate on a project together in a way never possible before. For example, two classes can work together to fight bullying in their schools. Using Hangouts, both classes collaboratively create a survey to better understand the extent of bullying in each of their schools. After polling their respective schools, they meet online to discuss results and examine similarities. Each class then sends their data set to the other class and each class is tasked with formulating an action plan for the other school. When the classes meet again a few weeks later, they present their action plan to the other class. At the end of the project, both classes build a Wiki or a Google Site together where they post their data, analysis and action plans.
- Invite guest speakers: Inviting a speaker into the classroom has never been easier … or less expensive. Video-calling enables anyone from around the world to “visit” a school. Also, as an added plus, Google Hangouts has the ability to handle up to 10 people in a video call at once and up to 15 using a Google Apps account. This means that there’s never a dull moment or radio silence during the call. Last year, my classes were able to participate in two amazing Hangouts on Air. We got to speak with Nobel Peace Laureate Leymah Gbowee and Education Secretary Duncan.
- Go on a virtual field trip: With video-calling technology becoming more popular, many companies are now offering virtual field trips via Hangouts on Air, which is a public Google Hangout that broadcasts a live recording of the event. After the video call ends, it is archived on the host’s YouTube channel for anyone to view again later. Here are a few companies that are offering or (have recently offered) virtual field trips that could bring that out-of-classroom experience to your students: Learn Around the World, Exploring by the Seat of Your Pants and SeaTrek.TV. Occasionally, announcements of virtual field trips from various members of the Connected Classrooms Workshop Google+ Community will be posted. One upcoming event you don’t want to miss is this invitation from Galatic Unite. To express your interest in joining a Hangout with Virgin Galactic Future Astronauts, fill out this form.
- Collaborate with your PLN: With everyone just a video call away, educators can work on projects and share ideas with anyone around the world. Many educators have forged powerful connections (called PLNs) via social media platforms like Twitter and Google+, and they’re using Google Hangouts to learn together or to plan professional-development events for educators like Edcamps and PLAYDATEs.
The possibilities of using Hangouts in education are endless. How will you transform your learning and the learning of your students?