Bumbling Around Google+: The New Circle Time

I realized the other day that I had managed to stay oblivious to something that has been staring me in the face every working day for the last year. I generally think of myself as a curious person yet for some reason that little + in the left hand corner of my Google toolbar hadn’t, until that moment, managed captured my imagination. Perhaps subconsciously I have been in new IT avoidance mode and was blocking out anything that would force me to enter further into this wilderness , which seems filled with so many new and strange sites that I am overwhelmed.

Anyhow, yesterday I was sitting at my desk and thought I better check what everybody else had done since the last class. Feeling proud that I now knew that Netvibes existed, I opened my account to discover that you had ALL posted new stuff. This made me panic: had I missed an assignment? I vaguely remembered being told to post on anything IT related. What was I going to write about? As I hung my head dramatically to emphasize the woes of being the bottom of the class, I contemplated how words such as Diigu would make it into printed dictionaries before I ever understood what they meant. Slowly, I looked up again at the screen and there it suddenly was, the wee + shimming before me like a crucifix. Google + would save me from the wilderness and inspire me to post.

Things seems straightforward at first: I clicked, chose a password and was then given a list of 80 or so people who had already seen the Google light. O.K., I thought, so this really isn’t that much of a wilderness after, it’s more like the cool bar people have been going to for years without me but better late than never.  Absentmindedly, I clicked a button and was told that I had just invited everybody on the list to be in a circle with me. What the hell was a circle? Would my bosses find it strange that I wanted to have some circle time with them? Perhaps I had better buy an idiot’s guide to social networking etiquette.  However, it was too late to retract the invites so I went to the help section and found out what circles actually were. Ah, they are just like having email groups that you can send things to and have group video conferences with.

By the next morning, most people had accepted my invite to Circle time and those who hadn’t were probably still scratching their head as to why I had invited them in the first place (or maybe I am old fashioned and people don’t ever think twice about social media invites these days- another topic for another post). Furthermore, other Google+ novices had come out of the woodwork and a few people even ask me what Google+ actually does. Of course, I replied with authority that it allows you to make circles with people. However, once the conversation went beyond the initial question I was discovered as a techie fraud and had to admit that I really didn’t get it either.

Today, I decided to actually explore my new virtual circle time friends and have started making more circles. The first one I made was for my IB Theatre class. My initial realization is that this is essentially Googles answer to having a private Facebook group. As a Drama teacher, the whole ISM teacher-student Facebook ban is a big dilemma:  I want to to follow the rules yet Facebook is the best way to get a cast and crew to all be on the same page and to organize all of the details that go into a Drama project. I have to rely on posting via students and have at times felt lost in the middle of a project because the class conversation moves on in the virtual classroom that I am really not supposed to be part of.  Maybe this circle will bring me back into the conversation.

The other bonus of Google+ seems to be the way in which I can add links, video and comments to the Circle wall. This is much better than posting on a Google doc because, like Facebook, students will be able to add comments and I will be updated as soon as they do. Also, when I respond the whole group can see so I don’t have to answer the same question twice. This is a much easier way to  share many homework activities.

As it happens, you were all in class posting, which is where I should have been if I had managed to add it to my calendar. Obviously, this makes me the bottom of the class this week…


6 responses to “Bumbling Around Google+: The New Circle Time

  1. I think there are many of us who have joined Google + and then done nothing. I love the little email reminders I get from them, encouraging me to make more connections or to look at what has been posted. I have also received invites from people that I think accidentally clicked (parent of I child I taught 5 years ago…) But I like how you were able to find a use for Google +! I had never thought of its use in our ‘google’ school – I want to explore more for application at a team level. Thanks!

  2. Oooh! I’ve never thought of adding a whole class to a circle, for some reason I thought it was just for ‘grown ups’- i love that idea of making it like a FB group- i completely agree with FBs power to reach students the fastest and easiest but rules are rules… 🙂 I will definately explore the + more! and please accept my invite 🙂 Thanks!

  3. Thank you for the laugh. I never noticed the + in my toolbar before. Huh. I have a tendency to put blinders on as I enter into the realm of technology. I use what I need to to complete the task at hand. What I don’t know doesn’t exist. I am not exactly sure how I may be able to utilize something like Google Plus, but I appreciate being more informed!

  4. You are not alone on the + sign next to Google. I myself have never dealt with it, and also having these odd request to be part of my circle. The ones I added I made sure they have photos of themselves. Reading your article made me want to tinkle with it as well. (I think I would)

  5. Marsha, sitting next to you in class…watching you panic and sweat over the Google + circles etc…has been fun to see … not because I am horrible – all the time… rather, I really love the idea of having a forum for kids… similar to facebook in format but completely different… (since facebook at ISM is not REALLY allowed) where kids can hang out, chat, grow and develop their blogging and collaboration skills. I have been inspired, have added many to my circles and will follow up with your links up top to delve deeper. I also had a look at Edomodo as a possible option for developing my own classrom community. All food for thought! Cheers, E

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