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July 22, 2011

Google Plus at Third Level

Upvoting the Last Space WalkI TEACH CREATIVE MULTIMEDIA students on the Clonmel campus of the Limerick Institute of Technology and am very glad to discover ways that Google Plus reinforces a constructivist approach to third level education.

During the current summer break, I've started toying with 12 specific practical uses of Google Plus in a first semester module for new students. You can find me via Gplus.to/topgold. I plan to expand on the 12 practicals during each of the 12 weeks of class during the upcoming fall semester, watching students develop an active learning practise as they unpack various facets of Google Plus. I'm musing over these ideas now, knowing that other academics will read and comment on my blog post as it percolates out into other social networks. I explain more of the specifics below the break.

Using Google Plus to Listen.

I teach the values of lurking and listening. Before someone jumps into a new social community, it's good to know more about the people who are already in the community and to respect the styles of engagement that exist in each community. I've 15 Circles inside Google Plus and it is very easy to see the different tones of interaction in each of the 15 Circles. I plan to share those Circles with new students and in a practical session dedicated to Evaluating Semiotics in Online Language.

Learning how to acknowledge primary information with Google Plus.

We have to kill the "copy, paste, create" mentality early in new college students. I use a tactic that causes students to think how to acknowledge ideas they absorbed by awarding credit for attribution. The way threads nestle in Google Plus makes it relatively straightforward to discern the provenance of an idea. Ideally, a Footnoting with Google Plus practical session will cement this idea in the minds of students during their first fortnight on campus.

Developing a transmedia awareness.

Even though tweets, inane wall posts, and short comments on Google Plus may be how students interact in social networking, I emphasize Building the Essence of Transmedia in a practical workshop. As all creatives know, the money comes from commissioned work and to pay the bills, creatives have to attract clients. A presence on Google Plus should lead to other media. How to affect that transmedia result is a core skill for anyone who intends to earn their living as a creative.

Cultivating research skills inside Google Plus.

I want to reward students who accept a tasking, research the objective, and return with clear textual and visual objects that help build a finished product during a practical workshop entitled Online Research Skills. Some of this research might involve Google Hangouts or Google Huddles. 

Google Plus can teach students to draft.

I save ideas I see on Google Plus into a circle of one comprised of myself. I push some of the gems I see on Google Plus onto Pinboard and Instapaper. Looking at the ideas several times while they are displayed on different screens helps me develop Tactics for Drafting Creative Content.

With Google Plus, I can teach a method of capturing long responses.

It's an art to write good copy, to produce compelling headlines and to edit one's material so the first 20 words hold the attention of an attention-deficient reader. It's hard to beat the effectiveness of Google Plus for engaging dozens of readers to add their two cents to threads that seem to gather momentum as thoughts get shared into various circles. Through a practical session in Forming a Proper Long Response, I hope to leverage Google Plus and teach students what I expect in an essay response to a final exam question.

Learning what upvoting means by following the +1 method.

I expect to discover that at least 30% of my new students will not know what a +1 means on a piece of online content. But after a session on Upvoting, they will know what it means, how to attract an upvote and how to quantify the amount of upvotes an online property has received.

Following thoughts through subscriptions.

It's much more efficient to follow the flow of things as subscriptions. I pull the Google Plus flow of several people into my Google Reader and onto my Kindle too. This means I can see the Google Plus content on different touchpoints throughout the day. That helps me distill better meaning. The process starts with a practical session dedicated to Subscribing to Thinkers.

Enhancing the art of short and concise commentary.

 Very few first year students want to read beyond the first 250 words of a newspaper article. In fact, very few of my students read newspapers. Some have told me "the stories are too long" for them to digest at a glance. On Google Plus, a comment or a post extending beyond 200 words would take up half a screen on a laptop and at least two swipes of a finger on a mobile screen. So it's essential to Learn to Concisely Write and Comment in a practical session I'll incorporate as part of the first semester in our creative multimedia curriculum.

Building a meaningful online profile by starting with Google Plus.

 I'm a little surprised to discover the empty profiles that a lot of people have on Google. On the one hand, it pays to preserve your anonymity. But on the other hand, invisible people have invisible reputations. I think it's important to Build a Profile on Google Plus, one with textual comments, photos and links to meaningful content.

Learning to identify characters and charlatans.

 You can often tell who someone is by the way they pose online in their media text. After a few weeks clicking in and around memes, you can also identify the charlatans and their posses. I think it's an essential skill to Learn How to Identify Characters online and Google Plus offers a rich target environment for a variety of different people, businesses and brands. 

Evolving as a collaborator through Google Plus community practise.

 We know that most of our graduates work for others and that none of our graduates has become a hermit or a monk. Consequently, we cite the importance of an effective dynamic in group projects. Some foundation elements of effective group dynamics can start during practical sessions dedicated to Collaboration Online. I hope to offer up the metric I use for peer review before the start of the Fall Semester 2011, starting first with online discussions at #edchatie and percolating into the Educators Circle I have carved out on Google Plus.

Danny Goodwin -- "Who is using Google+ and how often? on Search Engine Watch, July 21, 2011.

Richard MacManus -- "Google Plus Best Practises" on Read Write Web, July 21, 2011.



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Thanks, Bernie, for sharing your ideas on teaching with Google+. I've been drafting a few ideas myself, but am impressed that you have formulated a whole semester already! Research and communication skills, and digital literacies, are the key focus of a 2nd year Professional Skills module which I teach. Google+ is certainly a rich pool within which students can observe, study and practice many of these skills. It will be interesting, too, to observe with students how norms and styles evolve in G+. Look forward to sharing with you throughout the semester!

Catherine, I think we should hook up to two cohorts in some sort of group task if your module meets in the fall semester.

Let's do it! Am about to head off for 2 weeks (summer holiday, at last). Let's connect after August 8th.

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