Plus Participation: G+ Communities for In-Class Discussion
In my class this year, we’ve tried a variety of online discussion and collaboration: Google Docs, Today’s Meet and Collaborize. With this initial foray into a true social media tool using a classroom Google+ Community, I was pleased to see that students’ comments seemed more immediate and more personal than in a purely academic or professional discussion tool; I imagine my preference and theirs is because this forum is the way that we are used to social media working.
For future use, I think our Google+ Community is a great way for students to ask and answer one anothers’ questions; for those deeply-reflective discussions, I’ll likely ask in a longer-form response, like Collaborize or Google Docs. Additionally, the G+ Community seems to be very useful for asking follow-up questions that ask students to reconsider their – or another student’s – initial response based on new information or further, real-life discussion, because of it’s ability to thread comments. See Emily’s revision of an initial comment about Brueghel’s Odysseus and Calypso to make a connection with The Odyssey at left. Lastly, the feature of giving a “+1” is incredibly useful for asking students to evaluate each others’ work for the best answer, or to allow students to vote on questions that they would most like to discuss.
The primary limitation of the G+ Community, for me, is that it is difficult to post a topic for the discussion. So, students will always be juggling the discussion topic and the forum, rather than working within a single screen. To overcome this shortfall, I asked that students include the question in their response. In hind sight, I’m not sure that this additional step is necessary, particularly considering that Google+ only displays the first few lines of text, so only the first few lines of students’ responses are displayed. An additional limitation of the forum is that, unlike a Google Doc or a Collaborize discussion, it is impossible to set an end-time to the discussion. Often, to gather students’ attention, I’ll turn off the editing function on our shared Google Docs to regather their attention; no such function is possible within a G+ Community. Particularly for an asynchronous discussion, the lack of an end-time on a discussion would make it harder to monitor. However, a reflective assignment based on the discussion, like a blog post or Google form, could easily act as a centralized location for gathering that student information.