Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Presentation: Google+ Hangouts for collaboration

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I recently gave a talk on using Google+ Hangouts for collaboration and thought it would be useful to share it here too.

The presentation itself was designed to introduce Google+ Hangouts to undergraduate students to help them extend their collaboration out of conventional spaces and throw something virtual into the mix.  There's lots of potential but this is very definitely new ground for them!

I made the points that Google+ Hangouts are a great way of getting small groups working together (as David Read mentioned in his recent blog post). They're easy to use, quick to start and you can restrict the audience to a fine degree. If you've got a webcam and a microphone - that's great, but if you haven't, it's not the end of the world. Listening in to a discussiong with headphones / phoning in / using text chat to discuss is an okay alternative and collaborating using a variety of apps is more than possible.

It's early days and things like the concept of 'circles' can take a bit of getting your head round - but if you want a space for collaboration where you can write together, talk together, share your screen, view videos together, create together... then there's a lot to be said for having a go with a Hangout.  So... here's the presentation...

A final word on Google+ Hangouts and a few additional things to remember:

1. You need to have a Google+ account (either a University of Sheffield one or your own Google account) to create a hangout
2. Hangouts allow you to collaborate with others via the web using everything from video, voice, applications - synchronously.
3. Hangouts can be open to the public or private to particular circles / individuals.
4. You can start a hangout from various places within Google+ or externally from the 'Share' button on YouTube videos
5. You can't record a hangout from within Google+ (yet - but it is coming in Google Hangouts 'On Air') - though using an external tool can do that for you for now.
6. If you use a shared sketchpad or notepad, then everyone in the hangout will get a copy in their Google docs
7. If you've got a forward facing camera on your phone / tablet PC, you can take part in a hangout... but you can't invite others in and it's much more like using Skype.
8.  If someone hasn't got a computer, you can invite them to connect by phone (but again, this is going to be more limited than using a conventional computer)
9.  The size of a hangout is limited to you and up to 9 others - which means that it's best suited for small group work
10.  If you use your University of Sheffield account on Google+ it gives you the additional option of having the hangout only with people at the University - using your personal Google account doesn't give you this.

It was surprising how few of the students had heard of Google+ let alone created accounts... especially since the '+You' link has been visible whenever they've logged into their university Google Apps accounts, but like many of these things, if you've no reason to explore something further... then you don't tend to bother!

Oh, and while I'm writing this up, I should give a little plug to the fact that there's more information on Google+ on the CiCS web pages ... and in the meantime we'd love to hear from anyone using Google+ hangouts in their teaching. It's always great to hear about ways to enrich learning!

Just let us know via the comments below or drop us an email to mole@shef.ac.uk


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