I got an invitation to Google+ (thanks, Leslie Fisher) and have been poking around with it for a while and I’m liking a great deal of what I’m seeing. In fact, I see that this product could be easily embraced by educators. In a world where many social networking sites are blocked, (thinking Facebook and Twitter here) Google+ offers features that make it intriguing.
With a single Google login, access to Google+ opens full screen and adds a link and configuration to your title bar that gives access to traditional services so you can integrate with the Google services that you’ve come to use regularly. The network appears as just another tool to use.
Provided you’re future thinking enough to use Gmail, Picassa, Docs, etc. already, it’s like adding a new feature but not tucked away on the “more” menu! It makes sense to link Picassa to your Google+ account so that you have that facility ready to go.
If you’ve used Facebook, it doesn’t take a huge leap to be immediately comfortable with Google+. Many of the features, however, have a secure feeling to them with privacy defaults instead of the more open approach other networks take. The settings have reasonable explanations to them rather than cryptic shorties. To monitor your online digital footprint, you’re notified immediately, if you accept the defaults, whenever there’s some interaction with your account.
Sharing is well described. Reading and understanding the settings makes sure that you know just who gets to read and enjoy your content. But, you need to understand the concept of circles first. A circle is a specific group of people that you interact with. Rather than posting to everyone in general, you do have the ability to focus comments to a particular circle. In a classroom, I’m envisioning the circles as a way to organize classes or groupwork. A post to a particular circle keeps it within the group.
The Sparks feature is intriguing. If you follow this blog regularly, you know that I like to read my news sources. Sparks integrates news reading right into the area where you would normally expect to find your information stream. You start with some suggested topics from Google but then add your own. I’ve seeded mine with just a couple to get me started.
This could grow nicely. Coupled with access to your Google Reader should provide a never ending flow of news. Use your Reader for specific sources; use Sparks for messages based upon a theme. You end up with the best of both worlds.
Of course, you have to have your standard chatting feature. But, on the other side of the screen, you’ll notice that you have the ability to create a Hangout! Google Hangouts access your computer’s webcam to do some video conferencing. No need to exit and load a separate application.
Like any social media, your Stream is where you share your information. As noted above, you can limit content to various circles or to everyone in general. I really like that element of control. Add your text, pictures, or video and away you go. I’ve connected my Twitter, Facebook, and Quora account but am not sure at this point what happens. It would be nice if a post to Twitter appears on Google+ in the stream. It’s not working that way yet or I haven’t figured it out! In other activities, it’s interesting to see all of the services that presently offer posting to Twitter and Facebook. I wonder how soon it will be before Google+ gets added as an option. Remember those +1’s that you’ve been using recently? They’re all available from your profile.
The nicest feature, though, is one called Data Liberation. I like the name but like the concept even better. With a click, you can bundle up your pictures or other content to download in one action.
The whole package is bundled with a simple and clean user interface. Navigation is easily facilitated with this interface and it feels so intuitive. I found myself up and configuring in no time at all. Most students would have it done in half the time. If you have your Android device, make sure that you get the app. If your browser is Google Chrome, head to the Chrome Store and get connected there as well.
All this, and no Farmville, may well make this very attractive to education and educators. Hopefully, it’s something that will be embraced and used productively and not blocked or filtered from the get-go. I think that all educators need to kick the tires on this offering and see if it fits a niche in their classrooms.
In the meantime, I’m having a hoot building a new social media network from scratch.
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