Sunday, July 26, 2015

DigiLit Sunday: Google Communities for Collaboration

Digital tools have opened new possibilities for learning and collaboration.  A variety of sites have made it possible to host spaces to learn together.  There are blogs, blog roundups, wikis and websites to link communities.  Social media sites like Twitter and Facebook allow for conversation, sharing, and collaboration.  In the past, I would have told you I do most of my learning, sharing, and collaborating on Twitter, but more and more I am finding my favorite digital collaborative learning space is Google Plus.

I've never been one to post a lot on Google Plus which seems like a collision of Facebook and Twitter.  In the last year, however, I've been working more and more in Google Communities.  I have come to find Google Communities to be one of the best spaces to grow collaborative communities around common goals.

Google Communities allow you to bring a group together publicly or privately.  You then write a description, create your home, invite members, and you're ready to go.  Within a Google Community you can create subtopics to keep your conversations organized.  Participants can post using more than 140 characters (an advantage over Twitter) and add links, images, video, etc. to their posts.  The posts then stay connected in one space making them easy to read and discuss.  Participants can then comment directly under the post which helps to keep ideas tied together.

I have found Google Communities to work for local groups collaborating.  How often do you leave a meeting and have something you'd like to add or ask about a topic of discussion?  How often are you working on a project and locate links the connect to the work your group is doing?  Google Communities allow you to keep the conversation going.  As educators, Google Communities work for professional book talks, bringing buildings together, helping leaders who work together even though they may be spread across locations, and supporting groups collaborating toward a common goal.  They add the convenience of allowing participants to work around the challenge of finding common time, and instead joining the conversation as their lives allow.

While I have found Google Communities to be a great space to build local conversations, they also open the door to collaborating with others interested in the same topic from around the world.  Recently, Julie Johnson and I opened a "digital playground" community for some professional development we were hosting within our school district around digital making and growing our digital literacy understanding.  We opened the "playground" up to others around the world.  Our group grew to include participants from other timezones and countries.  We all benefited from the variety of learners and expertise in our digital community.  I participate in communities like the CLMOOC where educators from around the world collaborate around an idea, and host communities with participants from a variety of timezones talking about ideas in which we have mutual interest like #pb10for10 (Picture Book 10 for 10 Community with picture book celebrations) and #cyberPD (annual summer book talk).

A Google Community isn't perfect.  There can be challenges in following conversations, keeping up with posts, and finding important links.  It seems that having a page to host links and more static information in an organized manner would be helpful.  Hosting pages within Google Communities might accomplish some of these goals (as far as I know, at this time Google Sites cannot be hosted within a community though a link could be added).  However, for me, Google Communities still seems the smartest space to work and collaborate digitally.

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