Guest Post by Cyndi Laurenti.
Google has launched Google+ Pages which brings a new dynamic to the web for internet users. Google+ Pages is free, allows easy creation of visually appealing web pages, and doesn’t require downloading any programs to your computer. This is especially beneficial for educators from K-12 to online PhD programs because many online programs are blocked by education IT systems’ firewalls. Google has developed a full range of support for educators and also offers a Certified Google Teacher program to equip educators in the 21st century with online teaching development, knowledge, and skills to transform their in-person teaching environments into online interactive education portals. Google+ is rich with web applications to simplify and support those in higher education environments: Google Voice; Google Book Search; Geo Education; Google News; iGoogle; Google Web Search; Google Custom Search Engine; Google Notebook; Blogger; Google Calendar; Google Docs; Google Groups; Google Page Creator; Picasa; Google SketchUp; and Google Huddle.
Google+ connects businesses, organizations and individuals to audiences, allows your audience to follow a Google+ Page and receive page updates. Google+ Pages provides control for sharing information by allowing you to sort your contacts into “circles”. No one can see what circle you have placed them within or who else is a part of your social circle. The page creator can create custom “hangouts” which brings people from within your circles that you select, to interact in a virtual room together. Here you can host video chats of up to 10 people with the option to leave video messages and even share YouTube videos with the group. This provides a new dynamic in which great opportunities for tutoring can thrive. Instead of isolating student interactions to the hour of class they attend every day, Hangouts allow collaboration to stretch beyond the classroom.
A recent study of Google+ showed that it is more popular with parents than students, which could be a favorable indicator of how popular it is for those educators of the same generation. Google+ Pages and the other tools Google offers have made content enhancements seamless. One example of how teachers are using Google+ Pages to run their classrooms, is that of Mr. McDowell who teaches World History at West Hills High School. Mr. McDowell has made great use of Google’s tools to give students access to documents, schedules, presentations, videos and password protected areas like attendance and grade records. The convenience of one online resource that allows access to Google+ tools and pages from any computer promotes interactivity on the site and is a big hit with educators.
Unlike Google+, Facebook is a social network platform that allows users to create their own profile, page and add friends to their network, but real-time interaction is limited. Facebook allows audio and video media sharing through private messaging or posts on your wall. Facebook is popular due to the games and ads it features but Facebook doesn’t offer a platform that supports real-time interactions and information sharing like Google+.
Google+ still has a learning curve for all users, but since its launch in the summer of 2011, it has accrued over 40 million users in just a few months. As more users become familiar with the vast array of tools, sharing on the web will mirror sharing in the real world through Google+ and its usefulness has the potential to exceed other social networking platforms.