Will Google+ Replace Twitter or Facebook for Teachers?

| July 11, 2011 | 11 Comments
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It’s been almost two weeks since the launch of the “field trial” of Google’s new social network, Google Plus. As the hype grows, more and more people are receiving their invitations to the service, and in turn, there are an increasing number of discussions about how Google Plus might work for teaching and learning. (Take a look at this collaborative Google Doc that lists all the ways the social network site could work with students and teachers.)

The early consensus seems to be that Google Plus has a lot of potential, with services that could aid collaboration and communication in the classroom. Hangouts, for example, allow video chatting with up to 10 people, including the ability to jointly watch YouTube videos. Sparks provides a collection of posts on a particular topic, a way perhaps for students to gather research. And most notably, Circles allow users to sort their various contacts into social circles, giving them a more granular level of control with what they share.

“We always encourage extending the conversation beyond Twitter. That is crucial to seeing actual change happen in our schools.”

Google has been blasted by technology observers for its recent “social” failures – Google Wave and Google Buzz, namely. But the reception to Google Plus has been quite positive. However as a new social network emerges here — a successful Google network — new questions emerge, particularly for those active on other sites: do we relocate our efforts to Google Plus? Do we replicate our efforts there? Do we have time for multiple social networks?

For those already active on Twitter, for example, it seems rather daunting to try to recreate that network on Google Plus. I’ll speak for myself here: I follow a lot of educators on Twitter; I have a lot of educator followers. I’ve tried to find folks on Google Plus and add them to my “ed-techies” circle, but that’s easier said than done. I’ve also been added to Circles by educators I don’t yet follow on Twitter, and then I feel like I should add them there too. For the time being, it feels as though I need to cover my bases and work with both networks, but I’m not sure if that’s sustainable.

It isn’t simply a matter of recreating a personal learning network of people either. Twitter has also become a site for many important events, including the weekly EdChat where educators discuss a particular topic on Twitter using the #edchat hashtag to gather and track the conversations.

As it currently stands, there are no hashtag-like conventions by which people could replicate this discussion on Google Plus. There’s also no search and no public archives (yet). And while one of the major promises of Google Circles is to have better sharing and privacy controls, this doesn’t necessarily work for a public forum like EdChat, as private circles could leave out educators who weren’t “in the know” (or in the Circle, more precisely). Conversations on Circles could also be easily fractured as an original post is shared by people to other circles whereby follow-up comments are then in multiple locations.

Shelly Terrell, one of the co-coordinators of EdChat, responded to a question I posed on Google Plus about the future of PLNs with the advent of the new social networking site: “I think Edchat has to stay on Twitter because it started there, so will stay there unless Twitter vanishes. It would be difficult to switch forums but I think Google + may be great for discussions and definitely collaboration….I see this replacing groups like Yahoo groups and Google groups because it seems effective for a smaller, more intimate collaboration. These are just initial thoughts though. Twitter anyone can chat in quick bites so it is a great forum for talking among colleagues or those we are first getting to know. Twitter isn’t necessarily where I would share private information with a close group or collaborate with a small group.”

Indeed, Twitter is where many educators have come together to formulate their professional learning networks (PLNs). But Twitter is still daunting to many people, and while Google Plus remains closed to the general public at this stage, it is possible that its integration with the more familiar Google suite of tools (Gmail, Google Docs) could make it a more accepted place for educators to gather to share their ideas. Of course, it’s early — too soon to tell if the initial interest and uptake by early adopters will be sustained and will spread to the rest of the population.

Another Edchat co-coordinator, Kyle Pace notes that “#edchat wasn’t designed to ‘live’ only in one place. We always encourage extending the conversation beyond Twitter. That is crucial to seeing actual change happen in our schools. If all we do is talk for an hour on Tuesdays, there will never be any ‘walk’ to match the talk.”

Indeed, it’s worth considering some of the implications of putting all one’s effort into any one service — whether it’s Twitter, Google Plus, Facebook, Ning or a multitude of others.

Teachers, what are your plans for using Google Plus — not just to communicate with your students, but to communicate and collaborate with one another?

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  • http://www.techsavvyteacher.com Jason :)

    I think that Facebook + will be the obviously killer app for teachers and students alike.  See my comments on this issue here: http://techsavvyteacher.com/?p=529 

  • Harry Dickens

    I really am starting to like this it has taken me a couple of days to get my circles set-up.  I think this may just work for education!

  • Harry Dickens

    I really am starting to like this it has taken me a couple of days to get my circles set-up.  I think this may just work for education!

  • Jenny Worsley

    The circles will take their time to grow. I don’t believe it will ultimately replace Twitter, but they can be used for their different strengths. I am finding Google + a great tool for monitoring trends and conversations via sparks and streams – a much clearer way of bookmarking and creating feeds of information. Social Media Strategist: http://www.Eteach.com

  • http://www.dr4ward.com/ William Ward

    There is no one size fits all or silver bullet in Social Media. Students need to learn about numerous Social Media Concepts using multiple social networks and digital tools. Google+ will just be another one in the arsenal.   
    Twitter has lists, #Hashtags, and live chats. LinkedIn has collaboration and sharing through Groups and Answers and is also good for researching individuals and companies. Quora is a good question and answer site. Pearltrees is the best for visual bookmarking, content curation and mind mapping. Blogs and RSS Readers are important tools. Facebook has many new professional features coming. What about Social Gaming sites? Etc., Etc. It would be shortsighted to attempt to only use one Social Network. Change is the only constant. Keeping up with change and innovation requires constant hands-on experimentation. It is more important to create a sense of fun and adventure to help students be flexible and fearless in trying new things and by seeing trial and error as part of the learning experience. aka DR4WARD http://www.dr4ward.com/ 

  • James Dorman

    I can’t wait to get in and try it.  I look forward to the customized access through using circles.

  • Circe

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but don’t you have to be at least 18 years old to use Google+?  If so, seems like it will be a while before we can know about the full application to K-12 education.  That is, I, too, am very interested to know how teachers might use Google+ (and other sites) to learn together.  But one way a platform is easier to use is if you use it for more than one purpose/audience.  Or, do folks prefer to have different platforms for different purposes?  

  • http://twitter.com/APUSH_Dobie Craig Sanders

    I can tell you that my district blocks Twitter so it’s fairly useless to us as a teaching tool as students (theoretically) have no access to it and neither do teachers on their computers at school.  We are not blocked from Google Plus and my guess is that we won’t be.  So that’s a big plus for my situation at least when comparing the two.

  • Steve Reinhart

    PixelEDU.org just (literally) launched it’s Teacher and Student only social network. Video Chat, Chat, Free Technology Integrated Curriculum and much more.

  • http://socialmarketingfella.com/ Andre Bourque

    Google+ is more focused on business because Google+ + Search = Social Search. 

    If that catches on, it opens up a whole new competitive advantage for 
    Google over other social circles.

  • Cherie-Anne Baxter

    I don’t think it will replace twitter, not for many years. I’m not sure google offer anything unique enough and its already taken quite some time for the education community to really buy in to social networks and unfortunately that has been Linkedin Facebook and Twitter. Teaching Jobs Social Media Specialist http://www.aspirepeople.co.uk/who-we-are/teaching-jobs