This past couple months my colleague and I have used Google Hangouts extensively to communicate back and forth as we collaborated on several projects. We both operate from our home offices and since he is over two hours away it didn’t make sense to travel back and forth each day, especially given the extensive functionality of hangouts. In the past, pre-Google+, we used Skype, Go-To-Meeting along with several other apps, but none come close to the ease of use and connectedness of Google+.
Now I need to start by saying, we both “drink the Google Kool-Aid”. By that I mean we both use Google extensively in everything we do. Gmail, Drive, Forms, YouTube, Voice, Maps, etc… Hangouts is another cog in the Google machine that extends the collaborative nature of Google’s cloud-based applications.
There are several reasons why I like hangouts over other programs, first being that it uses my Google account so I don’t need another username and password. You can have up to 10 simultaneous video feeds, but if you enable the “On Air” option when you start your hangout, you can broadcast to the entire world (still only 10 video feeds). The “On Air” feature also pushes your video to YouTube that can be accessed at a later date. I can invite individual people from my Google+ contacts list, as well as my circles (multiple people). Google+ send invites via email and once users click on the link they are taken directly to the Hangout.
Hangouts provide several other features that make it a great video conferencing app. There is a chat feature where participants can carry on text-based conversations. The Screenshare option allows for sharing of documents, open windows, or your entire desktop. You can create a collaborative Google doc or drawing from within the hangout environment, giving participants a slate to brainstorm ideas and jot down ideas. And if that isn’t enough, there are additional apps and effects you can add to Hangouts to extend the functionality of the product. If you do decide to try Google Hangouts make sure you try on the pirate hat, just make sure your administrator isn’t on the hangout. Not at a computer, you can download the Google+ app for Android and iOS devices
There are a couple things to consider when using Google Hangouts. The terms of service say you must be above the age of 18 to use any of the Google+ services. However, with teacher supervision classrooms could engage in meaningful discussions with content experts. It is also important to note Google Hangouts is not available on Google Apps for Education at this time.
Google Hangouts is a great resource for teachers and could be used in a variety of ways to connect students and teachers with other educators, professionals, and students from around the world. All it takes is a Google Account. What are you waiting for, give it a try.