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Google+ Hangouts in the Classroom

Google+ Hangouts may be the videoconferencing tool schools have been waiting for.

Google HangoutsVideoconferencing is nothing new. As far back as the 1990s, corporations used this technology to reduce travel expenses without sacrificing the need for face-to-face communication. These early services evolved into what we now know as GoToMeeting, WebEx and the like. They are handy, but can be expensive for schools.

Skype ushered in an era of free videoconferencing, allowing anyone with a camera-equipped computer to connect with anyone else on the service. The price was right, but a two-user connectivity limit proved impractical in the classroom.

Thanks to services like Google+ Hangouts, schools no longer are limited to pricey services or those that limit connectivity to two users at a time. With Hangouts, as many as 10 users can actively participate in a given meeting, and dozens can participate passively. In addition to being able to see participants’ faces, users can share desktops and files. One needs only a free Google+ account in order to use the Hangouts service.

Individual classrooms or entire schools can create a Google+ account and immediately begin taking advantage of the service’s benefits. Some ideas for using Google+ Hangouts in the classroom include:

Thank a Veteran

For as long as there have been servicemen and women, classrooms have been writing letters and sending care packages. By incorporating Google+ Hangouts into these types of activities, students will be able to directly interact with veterans. Students can ask questions and receive an immediate response. This type of activity benefits everyone involved and can help teach about Memorial Day and Veterans Day.

Virtual Pen Pals

Put a 21st-century twist on this classic elementary-grades activity. Either in addition to, or instead of, writing traditional letters to students around the world, schedule regular Google+ Hangout meetings. Students can catch up on their activities, discuss what’s going on in each other’s lives and talk about how their classes are different or similar. The audiovisual aspect of the meeting also exposes students to different languages and cultures.

Author Discussions

Geographic limits can make it tricky to get an author to come speak to a class. With Google+ Hangouts, an author in any location can not only openly converse with the students, but also share images, documents and other files. Imagine the students’ reaction to an author sharing what his/her next character looks like, or reading from an illustrated version of his/her book.

Career Day

Hangouts’ virtual meeting technology greatly expands your pool of potential speakers. Send emails out to literally anyone asking for their participation. Aim high and national—contact someone at Apple, Nike, Nintendo or any other major corporation. If he or she says “no,” all you’ve spent is the time it takes to send an email. If s/he says “yes,” your students will have a career day to remember.


Article by Jason Tomaszewski, EducationWorld Associate Editor
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