Most MET students will likely utilize Google applications such as Google Docs for composing collaborative documents, or Google Hangouts to see the faces and hear the voices of classmates and instructors, across the globe, in real time. While the attributes of these tools have become virtually essential to networking within smaller, closed study groups, you may be surprised to discover the vast and growing community of educators and available information within the Google+ community. Google+ provides the opportunity for diverse networking within public and private spaces.
Google+ made the unfortunate emergence into the web in opposition to Facebook, and was subsequently scrutinized by critics in its comparison as a social networking hub. This first impression may have sealed the fate of Google+ to a niche market of users. This is not a site for simply skimming over social content for your amusement; the platform demands engagement and thoughtful upkeep (Tassi, 2012). This is partly fueled by Google+’s “Communities” and “Circles” concepts, where people are developing social ties based on interests and professional goals (Clark, 2013).
Though Google+ is rich in professional tools and content, its status as a somewhat ambiguous social networking tool is met with some opposition during actual working hours. Tech-savvy educators advocating the integration of social media into the classroom are met with two main forces of opposition. First, there is the trepidation on the part of administrative powers unwilling to be liable for the potential ill-effects of accepting social media as an educational tool. This opposition is supported by the technological apathy of some educators underwhelmed or unwilling to keep up with this exponentially growing field (Watters, 2011). Nonetheless, Google has soldiered on to contribute some impressive innovations to the field of education and the professional development of educators.
Google Apps users can be connected globally with forums, events and webinars to the Google Plus Community, in order to share practice, solutions and resources. Google Apps for Education (GAFE) itself is free, and provides a set of tools such as calendars and documents designed for sharing and collaboration. Google+ comes with ample technical support for its many services. Google+ Communities coincide with Google+’s Circles feature, which allows a user to organize and prioritize their connections in order to instantaneously connect the appropriate people with professional information.
Outstanding and innovative educators are encouraged to apply to become a certified Google Teacher. 50 applicants are selected yearly to attend a 2-day conference, where they are trained in using Google to its full potential in schools. Those selected become members of an exclusive GTA network.You may also opt to become a Google Apps certified trainer and representative of Google brand, if only to vamp up your CV.
Webinars and Youtube
Google’s Education On Air web seminar application allows global attenders to participate in real-time lectures or review them via YouTube at a later date. This provides opportunity to stay in touch with the most up-and-coming innovations in education, as well as create professional connections to be added to your Community.
Google in Education also offers a vast library of YouTube video resources for Google innovations in actual educational environments around the world. Google Online Courses offers a library of free video workshops pertaining to Google+ applications in education, to which educators may add their own (Karbach, 2012).
The vast amount of information-rich content in the Google+ environment highlights the advantage of utilizing Google’s Community attributes if only to filter the amount of time spent searching for competent professional development resources. Educators whose professional environment is not connected through Google might turn to social platforms such as Pinterst or Twitter to raise awareness of Google+ resources.