Is Google+ coming to K12 schools soon?

posted Jan 26, 2012, 12:17 PM by Eric Curts   [ updated Jan 26, 2012, 12:22 PM ]
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Today Google announced that Google+ is now available for users 13 years of age and older. Previously the requirement was 18 years old, which put Google+ outside the range of K12 schools who use Google Apps for Education.

For Google's announcement from today see here: https://plus.google.com/u/0/113116318008017777871/posts/hvXAqqHTkZe

Hopefully this will now pave the way for schools with Google Apps for Education to implement Google+ with their staff and students. Back in October of 2011, Google made Google+ available to Google Apps domains, but only for those with users all 18 years of age and older. This allowed businesses and colleges to turn on Google+ for their domains, but not K12 schools. (See that announcement here: http://googleenterprise.blogspot.com/2011/10/google-is-now-available-with-google.html)

Now that Google+ is available for teens, Google should be able to let K12 schools activate the service on their domains. Of course what would really be great would be if Google makes Google+ part of the core apps for GAFE, so that school administrators can manage the features of Google+ much like we currently manage the features of Gmail, Sites, Docs, and such. By this I mean such things as:
  • The ability to make Google+ Circles based on GAFE Groups (such as grade levels, buildings, teachers' classes).
  • Control of which GAFE Organizations have access to Google+ (such as only certain grade levels).
  • Content Compliance filters much like Google Apps Email Security (previously Postini Email Security) to give schools the ability to apply profanity filters (if they so choose).
  • Ability to restrict how public the posts can be for different Organizations. For example, perhaps the ability to limit student Google+ posts to be only viewable within our domain (similar to how we can limit who students can email).
  • Ability to restrict who students can add to circles, and who can add students to their circles, such as just within our domain, or just within certain grade levels (again much like we can currently do with Gmail).
Whatever the case, there is great potential for the educational uses of Google+ with students. You can read my earlier article "What does Google+ Mean for Schools" here http://www.appsusergroup.org/articles/what-does-googleplus-mean-for-schools but some of the ideas listed include:
  • Student collaboration: Circles will allow students to create groups for collaborative projects.  With Hangouts the students will then be able to meet virtually to work on their project, share information, and provide feedback to each other.

  • Online or blended learning: Instead of only holding class in school, teachers will be able to teach their students online (ten at a time) through Hangouts.  They could teach new material, review information from class, share videos, answer questions, share their screen to demonstrate content, and more, all in a virtual class meeting.

  • Flipped Classroom instruction: As the new features are rolled out for Hangouts, teachers will be able to record their Hangouts as well, which will allow them to build an archive of video instruction. This can be used for the "Flipped Classroom" approach to teaching where students receive video instruction the night before class, and then spend time in class applying the new content with the teacher's help.

  • Staff professional development: Staff PD could also be done through Hangouts, especially topics that lend themselves to lots of discussion and interaction such as book studies.  Beyond group PD, individual teachers could use Google+ to track current information on topics related to their curriculum (current events in social studies, discoveries in science, etc.) or information about technology tools they integrate in their teaching (Google Docs, Twitter, Blogger, iPads, and such).

  • Staff meetings: Hangouts should also serve well for virtual staff meetings, allowing staff to remain at their buildings but still attend and participate in the meeting.

  • School Public Relations: With Instant Upload it will be one step easier to share exciting content about the school with students, parents, and the community.  Media from school sports events, drama plays, awards ceremonies, and more can automatically be uploaded to Google+ and then shared with the appropriate people or added to the school website.
Of course social media has always been a challenge for schools, but Google+ may be able to provide schools with a way to teach students responsible use of social media in a more controlled environment, much like schools are currently doing with services such as Edmodo.

Here's hoping that Google+ will be one more plus for our school's use of Google Apps!