Jul 22, 2011

Google+ Hangout to the Rescue!

I recently started an online program through Johns Hopkins University to obtain a graduate certificate in School Administration and Supervision with a focus on instructional technology. It’s a one year program that’s partnered with ISTE. In each of the five courses, there is a strong emphasis on teamwork. This week, my team has the task of comparing/contrasting two theorists and arranging a presentation.
How does a team of five people go about accomplishing this?

Although we have access to an electronic learning community provided by Johns Hopkins, it’s difficult to make decisions through text alone. My group decided that we needed to meet ‘face to face’ in order to plan for our assignment. We sent messages back and forth trying to decide on a tool that would allow five people to see and hear each other. Both Skype and ooVoo charge a fee for the number of people we wanted on the call. Someone suggested a ‘hangout’ in Google+. BINGO! A magic wand for group video calling!

Prior to our hangout (love that term by the way), we made sure that everyone downloaded the necessary Google Voice and Video plugin. I expected that the first 20 minutes of our hangout would consist of troubleshooting. We had some noise problems as a result of not everyone having a headset, but other than that, the call was smooth and uninterrupted. We utilized the chat window for sharing links and adding comments when someone was talking. I thought we would need to devise a plan for taking turns to speak, but the conversation seemed so natural that that thought never entered my mind once we started.

Prior to our hangout, I had only communicated with my group through email and discussion threads. Thanks to Google+, we now have a sense of unity among us. We plan to meet weekly in Google+ to plan our assignments and make decisions as a group. I could see the value of a screensharing tool in a hangout, especially for educational purposes. We could have used one last night when I was trying to show my team members how to add pages on our wiki. I’m looking forward to seeing how Google develops this product. To think that it’s only the beginning!

Additional Resource
Battle of the Video Chat Applications: Google Chat vs. Skype vs. iChat

A special thanks to Brooke Mulartrick for this post! Brooke is an Instructional Technology Specialist, DEN Star, Thinkfinity Trainer, and a member of the 11-12 Johns Hopkins-ISTE Administrative Cohort. She is also a K-4 Technology Specialist at Methacton School District in PA. Find her on Twitter too!

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