Sunday, November 30, 2014

Stop Ignoring Google+

In case you didn't know there are thousands of educators and an array of learning communities over at Google+.  The bottom line is that many people are missing out on some great content, resources, and conversation.  From my point of view educators become quickly attached to one specific social media tool as their go to source for his/her Personal Learning Network (PLN).  Take Twitter for example.  Now anyone who knows me knows that I absolutely love Twitter as a professional learning and networking tool. It has been and will continue to be my number one choice when it comes to learning in the foreseeable future. Twitter has many positive attributes, but also a growing number of negative aspects.  Some examples in my opinion, include an increasing amount of negativity and disrespect, rise in social media cliques, difficulty in following chats, noise, and overbearing opinions.  Even as Twitter still works great for me and others it is not the only player out there.  Nor should it be considered the best learning option for all. At times I just need to get away from the echo chamber to focus more on my learning.

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Lately I have been spending more and more time over at Google+.  It amazes me that some people think that it is a dead community. This is obviously not that case or I would not be dedicating as much time as I have recently.  There are some similarities between the two social networks.  One great characteristic shared by both Twitter and Google+ are hash tags (#). The only difference being that popular hash tags in the Twitter world do not carry the same weight over in Google+.  Instead of favoriting a tweet you give it a G+.  The practice of retweeting is mirrored by a simple arrow at the bottom of the post that will allow you to share it across your network and beyond.  As a social network you can also share text, images, videos, and links, but in a much more dynamic way. This is one of the many ways that a Google+ experience differentiates itself from Twitter. Here are some other key differences that provide an enhanced learning and experience:
  • Circles - Unlike Twitter you can place all of the members of your PLN in different circles. With Twitter you send out a tweet and everyone who follows you, pulls up your page, or accesses the hash tag (if you use one) has an opportunity to see it. You can do the same thing on Google+, but you also have the ability to send your message to a specific circle, all of your circles, extended circles, or the entire Google+ world. With circles you can organize your PLN sort of the same way you would your websites using a social bookmarking tool.
  • No Character Limits - Twitter is a bit prohibitive with it's 140 character limit. This is the one feature I love the most about Twitter as it allows me and others to be brief. What if you want more? With Google+ there are no character limits so you can be as detailed as you want. This really adds to your ability to make a point, explain a strategy, discuss an issue, etc. It also keeps all those random rants from entering into your stream that Twitter is becoming notorious for.
  • Threaded Conversations - Twitter chats work for some, but they definitely do not work for all. Just the shear pace of a chat makes them difficult for many educators to follow. Personally I have found that when I try to engage and ask questions directed to specific people those questions go unanswered.  With Google+ each update becomes a threaded conversation that you can engage in at your own pace.  Comments also live in the update so you can go back and reference them at anytime. You can even share the thread across other social networks while accessing all of the resources, ideas, and knowledge that was discussed. I see this characteristic as bringing order to chaos.
  • Dynamic Updates - In addition to sharing text, links, videos, and photos with Google+ you can also create and share events and polls right from your status update box. 
  • A More Comprehensive ProfileYour Google+ account seamlessly links your YouTube account. If you use Picasa all of the pictures you upload will also go to your Google+ page. Another cool picture feature is that all pictures include in my Google Blogger posts are archived in the photo section of Google+.  The about section allows you to include much more detail than Twitter without character limits and and array of additional categories.
  • Hangouts - Many educators are aware of Google Hangouts (GHO's) that allow users to engage in free group video chat.  Hangouts on Air are even more dynamic video chats where you can schedule live broadcasts, host interactive conversations by taking audience questions in real time or in advance, use live apps to enhance the viewing experience, and immediately archive to YouTube when finished.
  • Communities - This is one of my favorite features of Google+. Anyone can join an existing community or create a new one. The difference between Twitter is that you can have rich conversations and share blog posts, resources, ideas/strategies, plan/publicize events, and have discussions aligned to specific categories. Evan Scherr and I have created a Digital Leadership Community. With the evolution of #digilead on Twitter our goal was to develop a space that brings together all the people, ideas, resources, and conversation related to digital leadership and learning. Evan and I hope that you will consider joining this community and sharing everything that you already do on Twitter. Not only is it free, but it gives you a chance to amplify your work and voice while engaging with like-minded educators at a deeper level. 
Google+ is a powerful and dynamic social media tool that many educators and leaders are not taking advantage of.  To begin simply start by setting up your circles, connect with other educators, share your content (i.e. blog posts) and lurk for a little bit. Search for and join a few communities as well. If you need any help please feel free to connect and engage with me on Google+.

So what is stopping you from using Google+? If you are using it consistently what added benefits would you highlight?


  1. I agree with your points. The cross posting kills it a bit for me. I see some people with the exact same post on twitter/google+/facebook and it makes me less likely to check.

    Google+ works great for when I am teaching my grad classes. I used it in HS, but it didnt work becuse students were only using it for my class.

  2. Therein lies one of the predominant issues I see in how educators use Google+ (just cross-posting as you noted). There is very little engagement, which Google+ lends itself perfectly too. When I see cross posts that are automated from a blog I never read them. Even with my own posts that are automated from Google Blogger I immediately go into Google+ and edit the content to make it more human.

  3. I don't mind the blogger posts, since it connects comments. Like anything, if people put stuff exclusively on google+ there would be more reason to go there. If the great conversations are truly happening there, people will find it.

    Some of this is we are all just talking to each other...

    1. I have connected with an entirely different niche of educators for the most part on G+. The majority of those who I am connected with on both Twitter and G+ just do the automated posts, which result in no conversation.

  4. I think we could use Google+ a lot more in districts (and out) for class visits. HS Physics teacher visits kindergarten (and vice versa).

  5. Hello Mr. Sheninger,

    I have never really gotten into Google+ before. I did not realize it to be such a beneficial tool! The world of Google+ does seem to have more benefits than Twitter, now that I have read your post. Thank you for helping to keep me informed! I have thoroughly enjoyed reading and commenting on your blog posts.
    If you would like to read my blog post on my experience on your blog you can see it at

    Thank you again,
    Natalie Thomson

    1. Natalie - Thanks for reading! I will check out your blog in a little bit.

  6. Interesting that this was posted the day I had decided to stop posting to G+. I guess I'll have to reassess my decision!

  7. Eric,
    I personally prefer Google+, too, for my professional growth for the very reasons you've mentioned in your blog. We started a private community for our school staff, and it's been wonderful. Teachers share articles/posts and we discuss; they post photos of classroom activities; they create events and invite others to participate; and they are growing as they learn how to use Google+. I'm still trying to get our Hawaii Connected Educators community going, though. Not too successful (yet) but will keep trying!

  8. In our school, I've decided to suggest Twitter for my bosses first. Starting slowly with that for the sake of the Ts here while I'm also sharing/discussing on G+. Such a shame that G altogether is blocked here in China. Thank goodness for VPNs!

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