Sunday, October 25, 2015

Add The World To Your Lessons

Google Apps For Education (GAFE) offers great opportunities for collaboration and connecting students to other students in the world. However, in division one, this is not always easy due to students' skills. Google Hangouts offers a simple way to connect your classroom to other classrooms through a webcam.

There are actually three types of Hangouts. You can do instant messaging/chat. You can do a Hangout video call. Finally, there is Hangouts on Air which is when you broadcast your video call. This post will focus on the video call hangout.

Tools You Will Need

A Google Account
To participate in a Google Hangout, you will need a gmail address or a GAFE email address. The person/class you are connecting with will also need a Google account. To connect with another person/class you will need to be Google+ contacts with them or you need their gmail address. 

You can use a built-in camera on your device however an external webcam usually offers better quality. The first time you use the camera, you may be asked to "allow" it in a pop-up window.

You can use the built-in mic in your device. If your desktop computer does not have one, then you will have to use an external one.  The first time you use the microphone, you may be asked to "allow" it in a pop-up window.

You can use the built-in speakers from your device. However, sometimes you will get feedback or echoing, so you may want to use external speakers that you can move to limit this. If the conversation is one-to-one consider using a headset mic.

If you have a poor internet connection or slow computer speed, you can adjust the bandwidth. The lower the bandwidth will also lower the quality of the Hangout.

Make Learning Relevant: Add The World To A Lesson

What Is A Mystery Hangout?

"Mystery" events started (and still continue) with Skype." Mystery Skype is an educational game, invented by teachers, played by two classrooms on Skype. The aim of the game is to guess the location of the other classroom by asking each other questions."

The same process can be used with Google Hangouts. Watch the video below to see how it works.

Not Just For Social Studies

There are a number of different ways teachers have begun to use Google Hangouts and Skype, not just Mystery Hangouts. Really it is only limited by a teacher's imagination and connections. Here are some events and activities:

Please leave a note in the comments for other events and opportunities!

Make It A Part Of A Larger Collaboration

This summer I had an opportunity to see how division one teachers have used Hangouts in combination with other GAFE resources to connect their students with others. A class from Alberta connected with a class from Illinois through Google Docs and Google Hangouts.

Collaborate With Other Teachers

This summer I participated in Project Overseas. My team was made up of teachers from Ontario, New Brunswick and Alberta (me). Prior to leaving we needed to collaborate and plan. We used monthly Hangouts as a way to communicate face-to-face. It provided a much easier and effective way to collaborate before we left than by only using email.


Anyone who has used technology in class, from old-school overhead projectors to iPads, knows problems WILL happen.  Sometimes these are avoidable (properly charged devices) and sometimes they are inevitable (light bulb dies). Using Google Hangouts is no different. There are some issues that are avoidable, if you know what to plan for, and some you will have to deal with when they happen.  One thing I like to do to be proactive is do a test Hangout with the teacher I'm connecting with before we connect during class time.

What timezone is that again?
My student teacher learned this the hard way last year. He did not double check the timezone that the class we were going to Hangout with was in. As a result, they were not in class when we tried to call them.

Webcams and Microphones - Give Access!
When a user first uses a webcam/camera or microphone on a device, the device will often ask for you to allow this. It is a small pop up that sometimes can be missed.

If you know your school's internet is going to be heavily used on a certain day, avoid setting up at Hangout for that day.

Okay, So How Do I Find Like Minded Teachers?


Social media is the best way to locate another class to connect with. On Twitter, you can start following like-minded educators. You can also follow hashtags, such as:


Google+ is another great resource for connecting. Again, you can add like-minded educators to your circles. You may want to add Google in Education on Google+ to your circles. This is Google’s official education account on Google+ and they host and post educational Hangouts. You can also join communities that are all about making connections, such as:

I try not to use my FB account for teaching. However, I am sure there are a number or groups there for Google Hangouts or Skype as well.

Please leave a note in the comments for FB events and opportunities you know about!

Further Reading/Viewing

 * Disclaimer: As Hangouts has gone through many changes, many of these links do not have updated information.

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