Google Hangouts for Educators

posted Apr 1, 2016, 2:45 PM by Miguel Guhlin   [ updated Apr 3, 2016, 10:27 AM by Miguel Guhlin ]

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Does your school cultivate a "culture of thinking?" That is, a culture where educators make their thinking visible to each other and students? We often expect our children to just "know how to think," but our role as educators is essential as we work to make our own thinking processes transparent. Yet, doing that only with our students, if at all, may not provide us with enough practice. After all, students are "supervised" by adults who, because of the institutional authority they wield, may not have to explain their thinking. This problem--getting educators to slow down, make note of how and why they are thinking, then share that with others in a way that's understandable--can be solved with more practice. Solutions like Google Hangouts, Microsoft Skype, Blab.im, Appear.in, Voxer chats all present opportunities for us to trot out our thinking in front of others...and see what happens! In this blog entry, we will explore Google Hangouts for Educators as one example of a technology that can help make our thinking visible.
Note: The term--"cultures of thinking"--comes from Ron Ritchhart, Senior Research Associate at Harvard's Project Zero, as cited in Katrina Schwartz' article, When Kids Have Structure for Thinking, Better Learning Emerges.

What is Google Hangouts?

If you are not familiar with Google Hangouts, it is a communications medium that works on your computer, your mobile device, enabling you to video/audio chat, involving up to 150 people if necessary! There are many ways to use Google Hangouts. You can get started with them quite easily. The best way to get started is to jump in and connect with a friend, like me!

How can Google Hangouts Connect Us?

Since some may find it difficult to understand how Google Hangouts could be useful in the classroom, consider its power to connect people across time and space. Here are two specific examples, but there are many more:
  1. Google Hangouts in Education: From the Google Plus community (17,139 members strong!!), "This is a community for educators who are using Google Hangouts in their classrooms. My hope is that this becomes a hub for teachers to connect, collaborate, and discuss how they are using Google Hangouts to enrich the learning experiences of their students." Some of the hangouts include Ask a Meteorologist , 2nd grade Culture Exchange, an 8th Grade Class in Minnesota interested in a Mystery Hangoutand a third grade, Spanish-speaking class. As you might imagine, the possibilities are ending for connecting with educators passionate to connect globally, and what a great opportunity for your students!
  2. Mystery Hangout: What an amazing idea! This 4,823 Google Plus Community--all educators--play a game with these instructions:Mystery Hangout is a social game played with two groups of students. It's a mix of Battleships and 20 questions. 1. Two classes prepare by writing clues or questions about their geographical location for the other class. 2. Classes do a G+ Hangout. They take turns giving clues about where they are or asking questions about the location of the other class. 4. The first class to guess the other's location wins. This is an incredible blend of familiar games we know and love!
Again, these two examples are only the tip of the iceberg of educators connecting with each other. Each is replete with wonderful ideas to connect teachers and students across time and space.

How can Google Hangouts Make Thinking Visible?

Favorite among the ways people are using Google Hangouts is for live professional learning opportunities. These "Hangouts" are facilitated by educators for educators. My all-time favorite Google Hangout is the School Administrator Virtual Mentor Program...From their web site, here is the rationale for SAVMP program which employs Google Hangouts to bring people together and create digital cultures of thinking:
"Looking to help develop administrators to lead innovative school environments that meet the needs of students today, we have decided to start the “School Administrator Virtual Mentor Program” (#SAVMP). This program is to pair a new administrator with one that has more experience." I had the opportunity to participate with fellow Texan and organizer, Amber Teamann--who also happens to be a TCEA member!--discussing crucial conversations. What a powerful experience to make thinking visible around such an important topic.
Another powerful tool that educators are using to harness the power of Google Hangouts is the Unhangout via MIT. It is described in this way:
Unhangout is an open source platform for running large-scale, unconferences online. We use Google Hangouts to create as many small breakout sessions as needed, and help users find others with shared interests.
On April 2, 2016, organizers and participants in the #EdCampCoachOL were able to connect to other educators via Google Hangouts. Using UnHangout tool, they were able to participate a series of "breakout room sessions," each powered by its own unique Google Hangout. UnHangout provided the organizational structure ("The Lobby") from which multiple Google Hangouts--the breakout sessions--were launched. Make thinking visible by engaging yourself in conversations with other educators, not just in your school but also globally. The conversations can help expose fallacies in your thinking and also enable you to share wonderful ideas with a world waiting to hear and see what you have to say. Google Hangouts for Educators can make that happen!
Need professional learning, either face to face or in a virtual space? Contact the TCEA! We'll be happy to provide professional learning and guidance that will help you create a visible "culture of thinking" in your school, region, or state!
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