Jul 18, 2011

How GPlus Can Become The Social Network For Education

We have been faced with the dilemma of not having a social network purely for education.  Sure we have select Nings, Twitter-ish sites, and Facebook fan pages for the robotics club.  These are very useful but we are pushing the square peg in a round hole for our classrooms so our students can benefit the way we do from our PLN. These are not native nor are they seamless options for education.  It is not that we are elitists who demand a social network of our own but rather we have a special clientele. We have to protect students and no matter how much we want to bring unlimited social media into the classroom we will always be conflicted with this balancing act.  Not anymore if Google plays this correctly.  What if we could provide all the collaboration and digital ability that we develop with social media to our students in a secured network? By no means to intend to make this blog a "Top 3" of everything.  However, just as in my first post, I have three ideas that Google should leverage to make this go down.

Google Apps Integration
The obvious choice.  Right now there is a Google Apps for EDU marketplace where Apps schools can choose third party vendors to integrate with Apps.  Many of these are very useful but I wonder how many we would need if Apps and Plus came together in an single package. Editing Google Docs, updating Calendars, using Sites as a collaborative wiki tool  - all to be shared with the community in Plus the same way our students are using Facebook.  Sure we can do this in Gmail now but it is the fluidity and feel for the social networking platform that I am interested in.  It has become our responsibility to teach students proper netiquette and web behavior.  This is a life skill and a learning standard that we have to own.  Making this literacy an inherent component of the learning process is something I have been hoping for.

Circles Within Apps for Edu Domains
Circles are beautiful.  Then I start thinking of how they can become classes if they are protected within a districts domain.  Even more, Circles can become our classes, our departments, our schools, and our entire district.  This hierarchy is perfectly designed for education and the needs of a school.  We can choose to share with all class sections, have a live meeting with only our teams, or share with the entire district.  Furthermore, if we are given the ability for open sharing with other districts, we can build local and global PLCs in minutes.

Disable Student Private Messaging
There is one piece that is crucial and that is disabling the ability for students to private message each other.  If the Apps integration is done correctly this would be simple setting for the student group in the control panel. In an era where cyber-bullying has become a difficult problem to solve, I prefer to take this opportunity off the table.  Edmodo is a web-based LMS and microblogging platform that has mastered this concept by making all student posts publicly viewable by all members in the class.  Also, teachers must be allowed to manage posts in their classes so that they can delete inappropriate posts if such an issue arises.

I see Google Plus poised to provide this opportunity that we have been hoping for.  Please share your comments on what you think Google Plus can do to make this happen. I'm looking forward to hearing your ideas.  Now it's your turn GPlus.  CC: Google on that, too.


  1. As we have seen, students WILL text no matter where they are, no matter what we do. It is the equivalent of passing notes behind the teacher's back. The way G+ works now, we actually could have a class discussion set up within our individual gmail account which would only be viewable--to the teacher--as a class. The students, on the other hand could put the teacher in a circle called, "Better pay attention in here, it counts for a grade." I'm beginning to think that we might actually do better by letting students have their "circles" around them as they study than cutting them off. I know everything I never wanted to know about plagiarism and am an expert in preventing it in the online classroom (different subject); but what is interesting to contemplate is if we could make learning integrate into the student's life--learning is what people WANT to do if they do not have their enthusiasms cut off--we might just create a lifelong love of learning that leaves the chalkdust in the . . . dust. At what age we could begin this kind of thing is another question. At St. John's College (Great Books), everyone read the same books so it was a continuous conversation, morning till night, on every subject from math and science to The Iliad to Plato. Essentially, the combination of the books and the conversations was the teaching. But of course one must first learn to love to read books. Maybe make grade schools computer free; and students have to EARN the right to a computer environment for learning when they have read 100 books? 500 books? {Isn't cyber-bullying is simple to solve: block the bullyer?]

  2. Thanks for sharing. I certainly agree wee need to integrate learning into student life. For the same reason, I think taking the technology out of student hands or making it conditional will not end cyberbullying nor will we be providing the best education possible. Teaching students about digital appropriateness, netiquette, consequences, etc. will help to minimize all bullying. Giving them the technology with a really good education is imperative. Thanks for your post!

  3. I'm excited about the potential for using Google+ in my classroom. I have used Edmodo for a few years now and really like it, but if I could put the functionality of both Google and Edmodo, I'd be thrilled.