Thursday, January 10, 2013

Google+ in 2013

I'm going to go way out on a limb here and suggest that you make a New Year resolution of MY choosing. Presumptuous of me, I know! But this one is really important, and this time next year, you're going to thank me!

Make this the year (or better yet, make January the month!) that you get (back?) on Google+ and give it (another?) shot. It's true that many came last year and it was a ghost town that left us all wondering where the party was happening. Our posts were met with silence and you could almost hear the echoes. But this year it's different.

Now there is a concerted effort being made to bring folks like us into the existing circles of communication that give Google+ its fire. If you haven't already been brought into a vibrant, active circle of communicators, come and "circle" me and I'll help you get started!

You might be asking if Google+ is really necessary if you're on Facebook already. My answer is: Yes! Let me explain.

Facebook's strongest suit is its connection on personal levels. Many of my colleagues have only one Facebook account and if they "friend" persons who are colleagues, they have to go through a lot of extreme measures to maintain private/professional privacy walls OR they end up blurring the line between the two realms, sometimes irreparably. It can be very uncomfortable. Some have separate accounts for personal and business on Facebook but tend to ignore the professional account and spend less time cultivating it. It seems like fewer people are on Facebook to do business anyway.

Google+ is similar to Facebook in how it connects people for RSS-feed style (if you're really old school!) communication but those communications on Google+ seem to be more about expanding one's horizons, networks and sharing of information than Facebook, which favors the more personal and intimate sharing of photos and personal views between established friends and family. On Facebook, we have more "real world" connections (family and friends we know in person) and on Google+, the balance tips the other way and most of our connections are strangers we've never met who are connected to us by mutual friends and/or shared interests and views. These observations are based on perceptions, but they are perceptions widely shared by many of my friends and colleagues, both online and "real world." There's plenty of Facebook-style banter (memes, politics, jokes, etc.) on G+ but there is ALSO a much stronger support of and access to connectivity of new people and new ideas.

The features between the two are different in some significant ways and you'll have to play with the settings to find your comfort zone. For instance, on Facebook, my posts to public sites can only be seen by someone who is connected to me, but anyone who finds my profile on Google+ can see my posts aggregated from several public sites on my profile page. (EDIT: Fixed that issue through privacy settings! Google is very responsive to the needs of its community of users, and there is plentiful timely support for your issues in tech support circles.) While it can be a little unnerving on the privacy issue, it's a great networking tool for letting folks know where to find you and where you stand on relevant issues.

Perhaps most importantly, the Google+ environment offers connectivity tools that are linked to (the majority of) our students academic email accounts. By learning to use and integrate tools like Google Hangouts (the G+ video Web conferencing tool), we are acquiring critical skills for our own academic technology tool boxes, but also giving learners critical opportunities to build their technology/communication skills in preparation for the professional world that awaits them. The ability to use Google Drive (think Apps, Docs, etc.) and related tools is showing up in job ads and descriptions in the "Minimal requirements" section across myriad fields. How do we prepare ourselves AND our learners for the (r)evolution that Web technology is leading?

By using it. Every chance we get. Will I see you on Google+? I certainly do hope so!

(Here are 25 Google+ Accounts to Check Out and Six Google+ Hangouts About Educational Technology to get you started. And to be sure you see this great list of educational technology hangouts that were RECORDED and available for your use, be sure to check THESE out! In fact, check out archived hangouts on the Google Education on Air site and lose yourself in the recordings! And seriously, circle me! We're all in this together!)

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