Thursday, May 8, 2014

Wanna Hangout? Google Hangouts for Education

I am always looking for ways to create opportunities for my students to experience an audience outside of our classroom. I want them to know that their work will reach a global reader via our blog, Padlets and Google Apps for Education.  The development of our global audience started when I joined Twitter. My students loved reading the comments from other students, educators and famous authors. These connections gave us valuable feedback and we enjoyed building relationships with new digital learners and adding them to our PLN (Personal Learning Networks).

We enjoyed connecting through our writing, but we wanted more. Who were these people, really? What did they look like? What was their classroom and school like? So many questions. My class is a group who likes to talk, a lot! I am amazed by the conversations they have during book clubs, conferences, pair shares and strategy groups during Reader's and Writer's Workshop. They want to talk to their new friends in their global PLN. Honestly, so did I. I decided to look for opportunities to connect with our buddy classes via Google Hangout.
Two years ago my students had a Google Hangout with Adam from Google about 1:1 Chromebooks.

Merton was one of 3 districts in the country that implemented the first round of available Chromebooks. My students shared with Adam what they liked about the Chromebooks, and what concerns they had. Adam shared some troubleshooting suggestions and gave them a "sneak-peak" into what was coming next for some of the tools, like Google Presentation. My students left that Hangout inspired and knew that they were part of the future of Chromebooks for Education.

Our first Hangout this year was with Steve Pratt's 6th Grade class. We connected for Digital Learning Day via our blogs. We both did comic web site review blog posts and had our students comment on each other's posts. We decided to have our students meet via Hangout. I set up a Padlet for Mr. Pratt's class so they could prepare some questions ahead of time so we would be prepared for our Hangout. On the day of the Hangout, my students were so excited. I projected the Hangout and we dialed Mr. Pratt. When his face appeared on the screen, my students screamed and jumped out of their seats. Mr. Pratt and I gave the students a few minutes to chat and just enjoy the new experience. Next, they started asking each other questions about their classroom, school, and learning opportunities. Finally, it was time to say good bye. We ended our Hangout and my class and I reflected on the experience.

Our next Hangout was for World Read Aloud Day on March 5th. Jill Barnes and I connected a few years ago on Twitter and our students have been blogging together. We are always looking for exciting, innovative ways to connect our readers/writers. We decided Google Hangout would be the perfect way to have our students read aloud to their PLN's on this important day. It was a wonderful collaboration. We finally "met" each other digitally, and celebrated the right to read and share our stories.

Our most recent Hangout was for our Passion Projects. I was introducing Passion Projects for the first time this year, so I decided to contact my friend and expert, Paul Solarz. Paul and his students have been working on Passion Projects all year, so I knew they could give my students some advice to get started and help them form their own essential questions. Paul's students were so helpful. I requested that Paul's students post advice to our Padlet so we had some direction before our Hangout. We wanted to make sure our time with Paul's students was valuable and we asked important questions that would help us with the next steps of our project. This Hangout was different than the others because it was a project think tank session. One class shared their knowledge and excitement about a topic while the other group took notes and asked questions. The collaboration and communication between the students was so energizing, and they just met! This motivated my students to dive in and get started on their projects. I know that I could not have created this experience myself. This was the result of Paul, his extraordinary learners, and Google Hangout.