Last week Google released their long awaited social networking tool Google+. While I don't have access to Google+ (and from what I've seen it's pretty hard to get in) from what i've heard it has a quite a lot of potential, especially for education. This post is not specifically about AT or special education, but I think that the potential of Google+ is something that should be looked at.
Circles: While this cartoon may explain why people would want to join Google+ (Google+ xkcd), Circles is what sets it apart from Facebook. When you first start Google+ allows you to sort your friends into groups. This allows you to share information with specific groups or publicly, which is something that Facebook has not made easy.
Implications for Education: Circles would allow you to friend family, friends, co-workers or students which is something that I would never do on Facebook. By creating Circles you can share information with one Circle, some Circles or publicly with everyone. It allows you to share more like you typically do, you share certain information with co-workers, close friends or family. It solves the Facebook issue of everything being public.
Hangout: Hangout is a video chat for up to 10 people. The chat is run from your browser and includes text chat, Youtube video sharing (which means you all can watch), and automatic switching to who is talking. You do need to download a small file from Google to make it work - Google voice & video chat. To use Hangout, you set your profile to say you are available to certain Circles, then your friends can initiate the video.
Implications for Education: Imagine having "office hours" via Hangout. You can set certain times you'll be online and available to Hangout with your students. Offering help via video and hopefully screen sharing or whiteboard too (don't know anything just features I'd like to see). Hangout's even continue after you leave the session, allowing students to continue to discuss after you leave.
Sparks: Sparks is a way to discover new content/information. You add your interests and Google finds articles, stories, or posts that fit that topic. You can then share that information with your Circles or publicly.
Implications for Education: Sparks sounds like a machine curated version of Twitter. While information on Twitter is curated by your friends, Sparks is more Google directed. I can see this as a very interesting way to discover new information for my PLN and such.
Again, I have not had access to Google+ and these are just my impressions. If you are interested in seeing more about Google+ I recommend checking out EdReach.us this week as they are doing a great round up of Google+. Also, check out Episode 101 of This Week in Google on the TWIT network.
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