Previously, I posted here about the roll out of Google+, Google’s new social networking site. At the time, there was lots of speculation that with the new stylings of Google’s other products such as Docs and Gmail, that Google+ would integrate with its other services.
Well, that time has come. Specifically, Google+’s Hangouts feature has just rolled out new functionality: Google Hangouts with Extras. Hangouts now feature screensharing, Docs integration, and Sketchpad integration. So how do we take the Hangout feature and make it work for our grad student selves? I have some thoughts.
1. Writing Groups. One of the best ways to help yourself through graduate school is to get yourself a writing group. A writing group is generally made up of your grad school peers and meets regularly to discuss writing works-in-progress. A writing groups keeps you accountable and offers feedback before it goes out to advisors or journal editors. I can’t emphasize enough how much a good writing group can contribute to writing success. The biggest hurdle for writing groups populated with graduate students is that we generally have crazy schedules and finding common time can be difficult. Google Hangouts with extras alleviates a lot of the issues with scheduling a time. My writing group, for example, is populated entirely with members who live an hour to two hours away from campus. With Google Hangouts we can share our works-in-progress through Google Docs, schedule a time in Google Hangouts, and discuss/collaborate on the document in real-time.
2. Easy Webinars. While it still remains a little bit tricky to archive a Google Hangout session, participating or launching an easy webinar is dead easy in Google Hangouts with Extras (even if it just showing your mother how to use Twitter). My teaching assistantships have been largely in online courses, and I can see using Google Hangouts with Extras as a way to help students see which buttons to push when developing a website or conferencing on a paper. Now that Google+ has an open policy (no invites needed), it’s even easier to get started on the service.
3. Hacking a blended course. Okay, so I am stealing this idea from my instructor, Dr. Cary Roseth. This semester our course includes 5 students who are attending class virtually. We have synchronous class sessions which feature lots of collaborative learning activities. By using Google hangouts, we “meet” with our online class member in our small groups, just as if they were right in the room. I’ve often been in a group with one face-to-face member and one or two online members, and I almost forget that the online person isn’t physically in the room. They are full participants in our discussions and activities. While I wouldn’t recommend this for a straight four-hour lecture or anything (and I wouldn’t recommend a straight four-hour lecture face-to-face either), it has been really marvelous to see the integration of technology into our course.
For a taste of what Google Hangouts with Extras feels like, check out this video from Lifehacker:
Any ideas on how you might be using Google Hangouts with Extras in your grad student life? Please let us know in the comments!
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