What are Hangouts?
Well put simply, ‘Hangouts’ are Google’s answer to live video conferencing. The many people who use Skype can confirm the benefits of using Video Conferencing tools. The difference is with Hangouts all you need is a gmail friendly email. You can literally link to anyone else with a gmail account in the world. On top of that, Google have linked this tool to it’s other apps. You can go into your Google calendar and add an event. Here you set a time and invite multiple participants to join. Google automatically emails all invitees and factors in timezones etc for you. One simply clicks on the ‘video call’ link and they’re in. This means that there is no need for third party accounts, everything operates under the Google umbrella. Too easy!On top of this, Hangouts lets you talk to multiple people at once. You can literally chat to a class in every continent at once if you so desired.Here are two practical ways that Hangouts can be used with Students:
1: The simplest, most direct way to use Hangouts is to have class link directly to another. This was done by Kelly Hollis, Maggie Mattson and Kimberly Sutton earlier this year. I witnessed Kelly Hollis, a high school science teacher, link with two Primary School classes. She had her students present Scientific phenomena to the Primary aged audience. Both groups of children gained from the experience.
2. I connected with a group of educators and we collaborated on a term long program (10 weeks), teaching students “Conservation.” We used Antarctica as a Case study. Seven classes from four schools met one a week for 5 weeks while teachers used Google Hangout to explicitly teach the programmed content. We even crossed live to Casey Station in Antarctica as part of our study. Students then were given 5 weeks to collaborate in pairs to create their own case study on a conservation issue of their choice. These student directed projects are being uploaded on this: Eco-Warrior Challenge . We will be sharing class samples via Hangout in just a few weeks. Special thanks to Danni Foster-Brown,Greg Salerno, Nick Brierley and others.
What about Teachers?
The best example of using Hangout as a Professional Learning tool comes from two outstanding educators Eleni Kyritsis and Michael Ha who co-host the monthly ‘Teach Tech Play’ show online. Each episode the hosts invite educators to chat about education and champion an ‘edtool’ that they find useful, which other teachers may benefit from hearing about.They use Hangouts and have created a wonderful resource that all teachers should check out!
One of the secret bonus’ to using Hangout is the extra tool- ‘broadcast on air’
This extra feature allows you to live stream the video footage to both your youtube and google + accounts. This is what the Teach Tech Play utilised so well!
In a more interconnected world, Hangouts provide a user-friendly web tool that allows teachers and students to connect and collaborate effectively. Put simply, this action in classrooms is definitely the way forward in my opinion.