Common Sense Review
Updated May 2013

Google Hangouts

Communication, learning, and fun converge nicely in Google's slick platform
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Common Sense Rating 4
Pros
It's easy to use, versatile, and can keep kids communicating and building skills outside of class time.
Cons
As there aren't any kid safety rules here, highly supervised use is recommended.
Bottom Line
It runs like a dream, works on all devices, and can be used in so many ways to enhance interactive learning.
Polly Conway
Common Sense Reviewer
Classroom teacher
Common Sense Rating 4
Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return? 4

Of course, it all depends on who you're hanging out with, but Google Hangouts can be incredibly fun. Kids will appreciate the emoji selection (special smiley face icons), and face-to-face discussions promote real engagement on any subject.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer? 4

Whether kids are chatting away over One Direction songs or pondering string theory, they'll learn communication skills that transfer to the non-digital world. It's a great way to extend learning beyond the classroom.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students? 4

With Google's vast network of products, support is plentiful. Hangouts can be saved and revisited, which is a nice feature for learning.

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How Can Teachers Use It?

Because Hangouts are so flexible, the possibilities are almost endless. You can use Hangouts on Air as a great place to record video lessons that students can watch over and over again, and it can also work well as a flipped classroom tool. It's also an excellent resource for finding already-created content that fits into your lesson plans. Student study groups can coordinate to meet online after school -- as a teacher, you could even join to moderate. Or, extend learning beyond your classroom walls and use Hangouts to chat with far-off guest speakers during class time.

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What's It Like?

Google Hangouts is a Google-based service that allows you to communicate through text or video with anyone in your network. Chat with a single person or a group of people, or create a "Hangout on Air" to broadcast your video to the world. While you're signed in to Google, click on Try Hangouts; you'll be prompted to install a quick plugin. Hover your mouse over a contact's name; a window will pop up with clickable icons for video, chat, or email. Hangouts can also be recorded and archived if you ever want to revisit a conversation or lesson.

Hangouts on Air are slightly different, as they're live chats that get saved directly to YouTube. Also, Hangouts can be recorded and archived to watch later. Once you're in a call, there are a handful of helpful options: YOu can share a screen with fellow hangers-out, take snapshots of the video call, and even add silly animated hats and accessories.

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Is It Good For Learning?

Google Hangouts are really cool! If you already use Gmail or Google+, getting acquainted with Google Hangouts should be pretty straightforward. Google knows how to make things user-friendly, and Hangouts is no exception; it's well-explained and easy to use. The ability to chat with up to 10 people at once is pretty exciting, and there's a ton of potential for after-school projects or group work.

Kids can learn how to be involved in a group conversation; little things like waiting their turn to speak, listening, and responding to others' opinions all add up to improved communication skills. When writing instant messages, either silly or school-related, they'll be challenged to get their point across somewhat briefly and quickly; it's a fast medium that makes you think on your feet. Google Hangouts gives kids a place to express themselves, listen, and learn at the same time. In Hangout discussions, they could brainstorm ideas, have a casual chat, or have a serious debate that requires critical thinking and strategy. By collaborating and working together in a group setting, kids may find themselves becoming better communicators in the real-life, non-digital world as well.

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See how teachers are using Google Hangouts

Lesson Plans