Software applications, originally designed for businesses and Internet connectivity, are quickly finding their way into classrooms and students are reaching out to the rest of the world.
For the last five years, Tim Lee has been focusing on Google Apps for use in education and shared his insight during the Central Alberta 21st Century Technology and Learning Symposium (CTLS) Friday, Sept. 26 at Ponoka Secondary Campus, explaining some of its benefits. Lee is the chief technical officer with a company called EdTechTeam and he hosted a breakout session during the symposium.
He gave the audience a quick run through of Google Hangouts, in the social network space of Google Plus, and its potential in a learning environment. While use of Google Plus is restricted to users 13-years-old or older, Lee says many teachers are using Hangouts and its potential to conduct teaching practices.
There are teachers who have control of the account and moderate its use with students who can reach out to other students and educators across the globe. Lee says Hangouts is a type of instant messaging with other Google Plus users that can also send documents and produce video.
Lee suggests if a user has a Gmail account, they are able to use any of the Google apps such as Google Docs, or Google Photos while in the Hangout, something Skype has not been able to do.
“In a year’s time, we can still use that Hangout. It’s an ongoing thread,” said Lee.
Teachers have been using Hangouts Live to showcase a fieldtrip or tune in to another school’s class. Hangouts Live then records the video for future playback on YouTube for those who want to watch it later.
Lee says that video feed can be broadcast to a certain group or to the public. In the public domain, parents, other schools and classrooms can watch the students’ class and even add comments.
Connecting to an international community
Entire community pages have been built with a variety of subjects that Lee says is changing the lives of people. He referred to a group of high school students under the name Tech Sherpas in the Unites States that use Hangouts. Their shows have become so popular that Lee says many of the students are receiving job offers before they even graduate.
“They’re getting involved in technology in a different way,” stated Lee.
The content and use of their account is controlled by their teacher, allowing them to host a show every Tuesday.
Lee feels this technology is allowing teachers to reach students if they are away, it helps them with mentoring sessions or homework help if needed. He advised attendees to start to familiarize themselves with Google Plus and the many applications available to users.
Lee also showed the application Google Helpouts, which allows a person to sell instructional time over Hangouts to users. Topics range from computers to photography to fashion to gardening tips.