When you begin using Google+ for self-directed professional learning, one of the best ways to find other educators to connect with is through Communities. But finding the right Community to join may seem like a daunting task. It doesn’t have to be with a couple of easy strategies. Let’s go over a few ways to locate and evaluate communities so that you find the right one for your needs.
1. Check out what Communities others are members of. This is my recommended starting point. Odds are you joined Google+ in response to someone’s prompting. Go to that person’s profile and click About. Scroll past the People and Story sections and if they’ve made it publicly visible, you will see their Communities. In this section, you will see a sampling of their communities, but if you click the number of communities they belong to, you will see a full list from which to explore.
2. Not everyone has made their community membership visible, but no big deal (just a small let down for connected educators). Another option for finding Communities is to do a search in Google+ from the Communities tab. You could scroll through the preselected “Discover Communities” list under the “Recommended for you” tab or do a keyword search from that page. “Education” will yield far too many results to be helpful. Search by content area or interests such as Gamification, Digital Citizenship, etc.
- Is it Public or Private?
- Do you “Ask to Join” or “Join”? Join indicates a public group that does not require approval. Public communities that have you “Ask to Join” is a good indication that moderators manage membership and you will be spared spam filling your G+ stream.
- How many members are in the community?
- Visit the member tab and see if they have multiple moderators or just one owner. (image below)
- Who was the community created by? (Visit that person or group’s profile) A community created by a company or book author may be focused on their product, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have something to offer you, keep making your way through the checklist!
- What categories are posts divided into or does the community lack categories? If you only see “All posts” there are no categories. (this won’t be visible if it’s a private group)
- When was the most recent post? Do posts seem consistent?
- Is there discussion in the community or does it look like a link dump?
- Read the “About this Community” section (you may have to scroll down to find this).
- Do community moderators have rules and guidelines? Do they value collaboration and discourage spamming?
Google+ provides a social platform where you can connect beyond 140 characters around your professional needs and interests. Despite my recommendations for evaluating Google+ Communities, don’t hesitate to join communities and start engaging. If you find that a community is not the right fit, you can always leave it. Odds are that you will find other educators that you will want to bring into your Circles, but that is another post.
For a curated list of Google+ Communities for Educators, visit my LiveBinder: Professional Learning Using Google+.
Indiana educators should also join the communities designed specifically for them.