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Monday, May 6, 2013

5 Things I Like About Building a PLN on Google+

Due in part to the fact that anyone who has a Google Acccount has a Google+ account, Google+ claims more users than Twitter. But based on the response when I speak at conferences about personal learning networks and social media in general, it appears that Google+ is one-tenth as popular as Twitter among educators. I hope this changes over the next year because I think that Google+ has some features that many educators will enjoy.

Discovery: 
One of the things that educators often say to me about Twitter is that they don't know who to follow or how to find people to follow. Twitter does make suggestions about who to follow, but the suggestions made to the first-time user who is looking to connect with other educators are non-existent. Twitter also gives you the option to connect with people in your email contacts too. That's about where it ends for obvious, built-in discovery tools on Twitter.

Google+, of course, will pull-in your Gmail contacts for you to use to connect with other people using Google+. To get beyond the people to whom you are already connected, hit the "communities" button on your Google+ homepage and search for a community to join. For example, search for "education," "teaching," or "educational technology" communities and join an open community. Then start to connect with others in that community. In just a few clicks you can be involved in a community of dozens or hundreds of other educators on Google+.

Communities:
You can create your own private or public community on Google+. You could create a private community just for your colleagues to discuss matters important to your school community. You could create a public community for parents and students to join to keep abreast of important information about your school.

Circles:
I have a half-dozen or so circles at the moment. Creating circles allows me group my contacts according to any criteria that I like. For example, I have a circle of just my family and a circle for just friends in Maine. There are some things, like pictures of nieces, I don't want to share with the whole world so I'll share just with those in my family and close friends circles.

Following conversations:
One of the things that I often hear from teachers who have tried Twitter and given up on it is, "I couldn't keep up with what was happening."

I find it far easier to follow conversations on Google+ than on Twitter. I don't spend all day and night on Twitter which means that sometimes people reply to something I said hours or days ago and I have lost the context for their messages. In fact, this happened to me this morning. Someone replied to something I Tweeted on Friday and another person jumped into the conversation. This all happened two hours before I was awake so when I got on Twitter I had to go back through a dozen messages to find out what they we're talking about and why I was mentioned in their Tweets.

On Google+ when people reply to something that I've posted I always see what prompted their comments. It doesn't matter if what they're responding to was posted two hours ago or two weeks ago, I always see their comments tied directly below my original post.

Context:
This goes along with following conversations. If someone posts a picture or video as part of a message, that picture or video appears directly in my stream of messages. I don't have to click a link to see the picture or video. This may be a minor thing to some, but to me it's huge because it means that I don't have to open a new tab or window in my browser.

Visit the official Google+ help pages for a complete guide to getting started with Google+.

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