As more people join Google’s new social network, Google+, they’re figuring out how to take advantage of some of the innovative uses for the site.

One obvious use for educators is to boost their personal and professional network, particularly as the service offers more granular controls for privacy and sharing. Within these Circles, as each designated group is called, educators and students can create discussion groups without having to worry about the awkward or troubling “friend” or “follower” relationships that come with Facebook and Twitter.

But beyond that, Google Hangouts opens up another realm of possibilities for educators.

Google Hangouts allows up to 10 people to video chat with one another. Hangouts are free and easy to use (once you download and install a browser plug-in, you’re all set). You can invite specific people to join a Hangout with you, although it’s worth noting that anyone who joins can in turn share the Hangout’s URL and invite others. As being in a Hangout appears in all the participants’ Streams, it does mean that these are public gatherings.

Google’s Hangout technology recognizes who is speaking during a session and that person’s image takes the “big screen” while other participants appear in small tiles below. In other words, there’s no squinting or tracking to try to figure out where the voice in the video conference is coming from.

Video conferencing is nothing new, of course, but the simplicity and the inherent social nature of Hangouts are pretty interesting. Many classrooms have already started experimenting with video chat by using a tool like Skype to bring online guest speakers into the classroom. But with a browser-based solution and with the ability to connect more than just two sites by using Google Hangouts, real-time video-conferencing might become more ubiquitous.

Take “Ask an Engineer,” for example. The folks at Adafruit Industries have held video-based meetings for several years now, trying a number of services in order to create a chatroom around electronics and engineering. But with Google Hangouts, “Ask an Engineer” is now more than just one person on camera, presenting to an Internet audience and answering questions. It’s become more of an engineering “show and tell.”

Drawing on the success of the first few “Ask an Engineer” gatherings held in Hangouts, Phillip Torrone asks in an article in Make Magazine: “Are Google+ Hangouts the Next Hackerspaces?” That is, will Hangouts become a place where people can come together regularly to share knowledge and collaborate?

As the name suggests, a “hangout” is an informal place, but that doesn’t mean that teaching and learning won’t happen there, of course. And as the show-and-tell on “Ask an Engineer” demonstrates, we’re just beginning to see the innovative ways in which Google+ will be used in educational settings. I asked those who follow me on Google Plus if they’re planning on using Hangouts with their students in the Fall, and it’s clear that we’ll see office hours, collaborative grading sessions, and the like occur via the new video conferencing tool.

Teachers: tell us how or if you’re using Google+ Hangouts. We’d love to hear your ideas in the comments.



How are Educators Using Google Plus Hangouts? 26 July,2011Audrey Watters

  • Anonymous

    started having this conversation with the homeschool community on google+ yesterday

    • Anonymous

      That’s great! Any new insights?

      • Anonymous

        Some of what you said…needs to feel like discussion or show and tell, not
        lecture. Some suggested that it needs to feel “spontaneous” not planned.
        Maybe offering some gentle guidance. Maybe inviting expert guests to
        share. And some questions…obviously, google is only letting adults in at
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        10 max in the hangout? Maybe for experts, we would have to record and offer
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        Do you have some other thoughts??? I love to brainstorm!!!

        • Anonymous

          Seems like it could be an easy way of having professional development types of meetings, sharing of ideas, etc. Would love to hear from teachers using it too!

  • Mannixlab

    I have started an online talk show using Google+ Hangouts for educators. It is called “The Power of Ten: Discussing Education’s Future. It is taped live every Wednesday night at 8 pm EST and rebroadcast on

    Last week we had Vicki Davis from Flat Classroom and Cool Cat Teacher fame, Steve Dembo, who manages Discovery Education’s online network for teachers and a whole bunch more in sued. This week the topic is Politics and Education. Go to to sig up for a seat and take part in the discussion.


    Brian Mannix

    • Anonymous

      Thanks, Brian — a great resource.

    • Brian since hangouts are limited to 10 people, are you all going to record them and put them out as a podcast?

  • Liz Gross

    I think higher ed administrators can use hangouts for recruitment, if adoption picks up in the 15-21 age range. 

  • I’m actively trying to get coworkers on Google+ so that we can collaborate from different campuses without having to travel to see each other. We are spread out over 3 middle sized towns and several blink and you miss it, so traveling to each other’s campuses is a pain.

    • We have been doing this in Ireland recently, linking project team members from Galway, Dublin and Limerick. It works seamlessly, especially sharing the desktop so that we can review documents/presentations. Best moment was during a fire alarm – if it happens to you, don’t forget to mute your mike! 😉 

  • HoneyFernDotOrg

    I am using them for discussion in my online AP classes. For local students, we meet in person once a week, then “hangout” once a week. It is better than some faceless Blackboard presentation, and it is mroe like a seminar.

  • Kateharperdesigns

    I hold a weekly hangout called “Greeting Card Geeks” for professional gift designers.  We have an new expert guest every week that we can ask questions to.

  • Erich Kofmel

    I’m currently organizing the possibly first academic conference using Hangouts. Here’s the CFP:

  • Segovax

    I’m excited about using google+, especially Hangouts, in my church-affiliated high school, but administrators are concerned about the privacy issues and the potential for predators who may try to infiltrate hangouts. As a result of these concerns, Google+ has been disabled by the school network. I’m looking for evidence, arguments, examples, etc. I could use to persuade the school and/or parents to think further about opening this resource to students.

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