AFTER ONE MONTH inside Google Plus, I know I can recommend its use for our creative multimedia students in LIT-Clonmel. In fact, I'm already using Google Plus from http://gplus.to/topgold to connect with one of our students who is spending the summer with her parents in India. And I hope to put Google Plus Hangouts to good work while working with friends five time zones away as we plan a high school reunion.
People who are comfortable with their Facebook friends or who enjoy the tearaway chatter of Twitter may lack both the time and inclination to jump into another corner of the internet. However, anyone who uses Gmail, Google Search, Picasa or YouTube may discover Google Plus is part of a social layer next to them already. And those with the next generation of Android phones may discover G+ is baked into the baseband, making Google Plus the fastest social networking software on the handsets. There are some practical steps I'm going to try during the fall semester in hopes of linking quality pedagogy to a high-quality mobile learning experience.
Step 1. Build a Basic Profile.
We teach the importance of creating an AboutMe page, including key terms that relate to enhancing job prospects. Before I push students onto Google Plus, I want to see they've set up a basic profile on Google with links to their creative work and listening preferences.
Step 2. Learn to Listen in Circles.
For people whose puberty was Bebo and whose Leaving Certificate was Facebook, dropping into Google Plus is like entering a vacuum. There's nobody around when you first land inside Google Plus, so you have to create your own network by putting people into various circles. It's easy to start by searching for names you know and then putting them into a specific circle. I made a circle for close friends and family and that's where I occasionally put photos of our two children. I can lock down those photos inside my Family Circle to prevent them from being sent around the internet. That is important to me.
I have also made a circle called "Totally LIT" and that's where I have students and staff from Limerick Institute of Technology. If I send information to that circle and prevent it from being reshared, I have the kind of privacy control I have inside Basecamp or a password-protected discussion forum. I like that form of lock-down because in a student environment, people often do or say things that do not deserve the light of day.
I have been surprised by the number of people who have put me into one of their Circles. In four weeks, I've double the connections with Google Plus than I have in five years on Facebook. It took me nearly three years on Twitter to get the same connections as I had in three weeks with Google Plus. Yet those connections really don't matter, because with Google Plus, it's not who you circle. It's more important to have people put you in their circles.
Step 3. Post, Comment, and Share Transmedia.
One of the most challenging modules I teach is Media Writing because I know that up to a third of those enrolled won't finish their first year in their degree. I'd like to learn more about all the students without following them on Facebook and I think I can treat G+ like a blog hosting plaform. It's very easy to simply type away on Google Plus and then publish the work immediately to the desktops and phones of friends. But unlike a new blog site, publishing to G+ is like writing back in the days of Web Rings because you can post to Circles.
Well-populated Circles attract attention. When I push a blog post over to Google Plus, I get much more feedback and cross-talk than I've ever received on my blog. Something about the speed of Google Plus or elegance of the mobile app seems to attract more engagement. Suprisingly, Google Plus has helped me uncover new genres of creative work and interesting people behind that work. I have a whole new source of interesting wallpaper, thanks to contributions from the G+ community I follow.
We use field journals in my Media Writing module. I hope to document how students are publishing ideas that started in their journals and ended up on Google Plus where others commented and embellished work.
Step 4. Develop a Work Flow.
I have not extended the number of hours I am on my computer every day because I have set up a G+ workflow that allows me to see more information during the day. I can push from G+ to Facebook and back, using a Chrome extension. I can follow Circle conversations faster on my Xperia Arc than I can on my Dell laptop.
Part of my workflow involves images. I am amazed at the speed at which photos and videos from my phone go automagically up to my private Picasa account. My phone snaps high-quality macro images--better than I get with my HP scanner. Within a few minutes, I can open those images in Picasa and edit them or I can view them on my phone and share them to public or private Circles.
Step 5. Make it Mobile.
I like being able to see specific parts of my Google Plus environment so I often use bookmarks on my Nokia E7 to get direct views of each of my areas. I can see these various facets of Google Plus without an application:
I plan to revisit this post in late September, when my new students have given me feedback on their experience. By that time, I'll know where I'm wrong about Google Plus.
Chris Brogran -- "In Google+, it's not who you circle, it's who circles you. But that's not as easy as it sounds". - http://www.chrisbrogan.com/whocircleswho/ on his blog, July 29, 2011.
Craig Kannally -- "The Google Plus Privacy Guide" on the Huffington Post, July 21, 2011.
David Armano -- "The Social Layer: Six Thoughts On Where Google Plus Is Going on Logic + Emotion, July 25, 2011.