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Make Thinking Visible: Google Hangouts for Educators

by Miguel Guhlin
thinking

Image Source: Color and Dust Gallery – http://tinyurl.com/h95euku

Does your school cultivate a “culture of thinking?” That is, a culture where educators make their thinking visible to each other and students? We often expect our children to just “know how to think,” but in our role as educators, we must make our own thinking processes transparent. Yet doing that only with our students, if at all, may not provide us with enough practice.

This problem of getting educators to slow down, make note of how and why they are thinking, and then share that with others in a way that’s understandable can be solved simply with more practice. Solutions like Google Hangouts, Microsoft Skype, Blab.im, Appear.in, and Voxer chats all present opportunities for us to trot out our thinking in front of others and see what happens. Let’s look at Google Hangouts for Educators as one example of a technology that can help make our thinking visible.

Note: The term “cultures of thinking” comes from Ron Ritchhart, Senior Research Associate at Harvard’s Project Zero, as cited in Katrina Schwartz’ article When Kids Have Structure for Thinking, Better Learning Emerges.

What is Google Hangouts?

If you are not familiar with Google Hangouts, it is a communications medium that works on your computer or mobile device, enabling you to video/audio chat with up to 150 people. There are many ways to use Google Hangouts. You can get started with it quite easily. The best way to get started is to jump in and connect with a friend, like me!

How can Google Hangouts connect us?

Since some may find it difficult to understand how Google Hangouts could be useful in the classroom, consider its power to connect people across time and space. Here are two specific examples, but there are many more:

  1. Google Hangouts in Education: From the Google Plus community (17,139 members strong), “This is a community for educators who are using Google Hangouts in their classrooms. My hope is that this becomes a hub for teachers to connect, collaborate, and discuss how they are using Google Hangouts to enrich the learning experiences of their students.” Some of the hangouts include Ask a Meteorologist, Second Grade Culture Exchange, an eighth grade class in Minnesota interested in a Mystery Hangout, and a third grade Spanish-speaking class. As you might imagine, the possibilities are endless for connecting with educators passionate to unite globally, and what a great opportunity for your students.
  2. Mystery Hangout: What an amazing idea! This Google Plus Community of 4,823 educators plays a game using the following instructions: Mystery Hangout is a social game played with two groups of students. It’s a mix of Battleship and 20 questions. Two classes prepare by writing clues or questions about their geographical location for the other class. The classes do a Google+ Hangout and take turns giving clues about where they are or asking questions about the location of the other class. The first class to guess the other’s location wins. This is an incredible blend of familiar games we know and love and powerful technology that connects us from anywhere in the world.

Again, these two examples are only the tip of the iceberg of educators connecting with each other. Each is replete with wonderful ideas to join teachers and students across time and space.

How can Google Hangouts make thinking visible?

Favorite among the ways people are using Google Hangouts is for live professional learning opportunities. These Hangouts are facilitated by educators for educators. My all-time favorite Google Hangout is the School Administrator Virtual Mentor Program. From their website, here is the rationale for the SAVMP program, which employs Google Hangouts to bring people together and create digital cultures of thinking:

Looking to help develop administrators to lead innovative school environments that meet the needs of students today, we have decided to start the ‘School Administrator Virtual Mentor Program’ (#SAVMP). This program is to pair a new administrator with one that has more experience.” I had the opportunity to participate with fellow Texan, TCEA member, and organizer Amber Teamann to discuss crucial conversations. What a powerful experience to make thinking visible around such an important topic.

Another powerful tool that educators are using to harness the power of Google Hangouts is the Unhangout via MIT. It is described in this way:

Unhangout is an open source platform for running large-scale, unconferences online. We use Google Hangouts to create as many small breakout sessions as needed, and help users find others with shared interests.

On April 2, 2016, organizers and participants in the #EdCampCoachOL were able to connect to other educators via Google Hangouts. Using the UnHangout tool, they took part in a series of breakout room sessions, each powered by its own unique Google Hangout. UnHangout provided the organizational structure (the lobby) from which multiple Google Hangouts (the breakout sessions) were launched.

Make thinking visible by engaging yourself in conversations with other educators, not just in your school, but also globally. The conversations can help expose fallacies in your thinking and also enable you to share wonderful ideas with a world waiting to hear and see what you have to say. Google Hangouts for Educators can make that happen.

Need professional learning, either face to face or in a virtual space? Contact TCEA! We’ll be happy to provide customized, engaging professional learning and guidance that will help you create a visible culture of thinking in your school, region, or state.

Join the ongoing TCEA Microsoft Innovative Educator (MIE) SkypeChat via Your Mobile Device or Online! Explore and share concepts at the intersection of teaching, learning, leading and technology!

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