GAFE or not, teachers can benefit from being on Google+

I am more and more inclined to connect with my PLN through Google+ this school year. I’m not just favoring the tool. It allows me to do so much more than convey a message or share a link. I’m using Google+ to create events and to organize Hangouts on Air for virtual face-to-face conversations, and I don’t see any other universal platform that allows me to do these things in one place. And then there are Google+ Communities, which are potential game changers for PLCs (and dare I say some classrooms). But here’s where I run into a bit of a roadblock.

There are many teachers who have not yet discovered what Google+ has to offer. Just this week, I had two elearning coaches contact me asking for more details on the Coach UnConference because they were not on G+ and so were not members of the community. In their districts, Google+ is viewed as just another social media tool. That label may have been what sparked me to start including these slides in my presentations about Google+. In the first slide, I note that all of these tools have educational potential and many Connected Educators consider one and more of them a part of their arsenal. But these icons don’t register professional learning and growth on every scale. A reasonable human being you would ask, but why would I be interested in taking on a new social network? And I want teachers to be asking that question. After all, they have enough on their plate already! The next slide is about gaining a new perspective on how we look at Google+.

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Do you see a rabbit or do you see a duck? Our perception is heavily influenced by our own experiences and our expectations. When people look at the image, most will see a duck. Now imagine showing this to children around Easter time. Not surprising, given the context that the situation provides, you will find that they tend to see a rabbit.

In the last couple of months, I am coming across more teachers with access to Google+ and Hangouts. Most of these educators are in GAFE districts, but I hate to say that even some GAFE districts have made Google+ inaccessible in the admin console. When I come across this situation, I note that our state department of education has essentially given Google+ the stamp of approval by designing online communities of practice around the new standards using the platform. In this context, I ask if the district has the ability to separate educator users from student users on the network and what would it take to make Google+ available to their admin and teachers so that they can take advantage of this professional resource.

You may be asking what is Google+ and why all the fuss. Allow me to share a few basic resources (sorry, some of these are kind of old because Google+ has been around since 2011):
The Official Google+ Overview
Video: What Is Google+ (And Do I Need It?)
100 Ways to Improve Your Google Plus Experience
Stop Ignoring Google+ via Eric Sheninger

So can Google+ really be justified as a professional resource? I believe it can. If you happen to be attending KYSTE in Louisville, KY next week, join me Friday at 9:30 a.m. in the French room to discuss how.