However, because I think that as learning technologists it's our job to see the potential in things and to explore them fairly and fully - I persisted. And I have to say that I'm glad I have. So, I thought it would be helpful for me to share Ten Top Tips for using Google+ which have helped me to find a role for it in the portfolio of online tools I currently work with.
1. Sharing curated content
|Link shared with comment on Google+|
2. Sharing with a very specific audience
|Photos of our new offices, shared only with the team|
3. Carrying out asynchronous interviews online
|Interview via Google+ with David Read, April 2012|
|Starting a hangout from the original interview post|
If you were wanting pairs of students to work together, then getting them to use Google+ is an easy way of having them chat to one another - and keep their work private too.
4. Setting up a Google+ page for an interest group
|The Learning Technologies at the University of|
Sheffield Google+ page, April 2012
5. Sharing content... and seeing where it went
|Ripples for a public share on Google+|
Well, those ripples can go pretty far and wide - and it's fascinating to see how something went viral. And even for things that got shared with only a few people, it's still great to see where things went.
6. Creating a form in Google docs... then sharing it with a Google+ circle
|Sharing a form with a Google+ circle from within Google docs|
The integration of Google+ with other Google services is one of its strengths and if you've created a form in Google docs recently, you may have noticed a little Google+ share button at the top when you've been editing. It not only means that you have another way to share / promote things like surveys, but that you can quite finely control the audience by using circles to control who it goes to. For example, a staff survey going only to particular members of a team or a sign up sheet going to certain students.
7. Taming the information flow
|Drag the slider to allow more or less content from a particular circle|
to appear in your Google+ stream
One of the problems with social media - Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr etc is that sometimes it can feel like the information flow is less of a flow and more of a torrent. Well, not only is the curation on Google+ one built-in way of controlling that flow, but once you've sorted out your circles, you can then adjust how much content from people in that circle appears in your stream. From everything to nothing. That really helps to put some of the control back in your hands.
8. Sharing connections with others
|Sharing a circle with other people|
9. Real-time collaboration using hangouts
|Creating a hangout based on a shared item in your Google+ stream|
Hangouts are fantastic for collaborating. Where 'hanging out' is the very Google+ specific hanging out. So far I've used them to remotely participate in a meeting and to collaboratively author a document with a colleague (Google docs is well integrated into Hangouts). The possibilities for small group work are vast and whether you want to create hangouts on the fly or off the back of particular discussion topics / at prearranged times, the fact that they're so well built into Google+ makes them very straightforward to use.
10. Using unique hash-tags to aggregate content and discover related items
|Searching for the #cicsltt hashtag on Google+|
I'm a big fan of hash-tags for tagging and aggregating content - whether that's on Twitter or on services such as Diigo or Delicious, tagging is a powerful thing. And on Google+ it's fantastic for tracking your content, not least because when someone re-shares something you've created (and tagged), they can't edit that content and the tag travels with it - which again, means that you can find what's happening to your resources. You do that by searching for the hash-tagged items - and then save those searches for future reference. If you're working on a project and want to bring together items from multiple sources, getting people to use a unique hash-tag is the way to go. We use the hash-tag #cicsltt (CiCS Learning Technologies Team) for our Google+ posts - but I also tag things with #elearning or #edtech in case other people are searching for those terms - it means our content is more likely to be discovered.
So, there you go. Ten ways of using Google+ in education. How are you using it? Have you got to grips with it yet?