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Review by Jenny Bristol, Common Sense Education | Updated August 2016

Google Spaces

Hassle-free tool for hosting small group discussions

Subjects & skills
Skills
  • Communication & Collaboration

Subjects
N/A
Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
11-12
Common Sense says (See details)
Teachers say (0)
Not yet reviewed

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7 images

Pros: Streamlined interface, and the content syncs between mobile and web.

Cons: There's no education-specific features or file uploading.

Bottom Line: Worth a look for small, quick-to-set-up, and easy-to-use discussion spaces.

As an open social network, Google Spaces is intended for users age 17 and up and is best used in high school scenarios or for teachers' personal or professional use. Students can collaborate on study groups, group projects, group writing critiques, or activity coordination. Teachers can form their own spaces to discuss lessons with each other, or they can be the leader of a space for small classes or groups of students, engaging them in discussion, doling out assignments, or guiding lessons. Specific lesson ideas could include posting a link to a primary source for discussion on its historical context, posting a lecture from YouTube for students to watch and then answering student questions, or sharing an essay for student critique. Teachers and students can keep tabs on posting and discussion activity in the sidebar.

Anyone who has the space's link can join, so be sure to keep tabs on who has access. If the link becomes too public, the space's owner can delete the invite link, preventing future people from joining without affecting current members. The owner can then generate a fresh invitation link. Owners of the space can also block or remove users, and members can block users. Blocking removes the user from spaces you've created and removes you from spaces they've created. If you're both members of a space created by someone else, you won't be able to see each other's content. It may also block them in other Google apps that you use.

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Editor's Note: Google Spaces has been shut down by Google and is no longer available.

Google Spaces is a discussion and sharing tool for small groups of people, with both web and app versions (Android and iOS). It can be used in a social, educational, or business setting. Spaces, of course, is tied to a user's Google account and allows them to create up to 100 spaces, each of which can be used by multiple other invited Google users. Within those spaces, each user can begin new conversations by presenting a webpage, photo, video, or text block that shows up on the members' feeds. Other users can then comment on what has been presented and follow along on the activity ticker. Everything is automatically saved to your Google account and syncs with the web interface, making it easy to participate in conversations at your desk or on the go.

Once users make a space, they can invite others to join the space by link, email, Facebook, or another method. Once others join, their avatars are displayed in the header. Owners of each space can customize the name and the header's color and photo, see the people in the space, mute the space, or delete the space. Users can search within their spaces, manage their activities, delete posts and comments, and set their name and photo (though this changes it through Google directly). Basic help is available, but there's little needed given the straightforward design. Keep in mind that users can't upload files. They can store files somewhere else on the internet, though, and paste a link to the file in a new post. Also, it's not optimized for use on mobile devices, so you'll likely want to use it primarily on the web and use the app to check in..

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Google Spaces is useful as a simple, elegant, and quick-to-set-up discussion and collaboration tool. When users first launch Google Spaces, it gives dozens of suggestions on how to use it, including coordinating class reunions, book clubs, exercise groups, community gardens, group projects, study groups, and the like. Depending on your students' needs, you can create a mix of spaces for them to organize all aspects of their social-based education. By sharing what they know, expressing opinions on others' posts, and discussing sources, students can learn from each other and from their teachers. It can even be used as a peer review or back channel tool if users share discussion items in the feed and facilitate conversation and feedback below.

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Overall Rating
3

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?
4

With Google's typical colorful and streamlined interface, users can jump right in and share, learn, and discuss in an uncluttered environment.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?
3

Students and teachers can share what they know, learn from each other, and hold productive discussions.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?
3

Very simple to get going. Users can access help resources that cover all the app's functions, which are also cross-referenced.


Common Sense Reviewer
Jenny Bristol Homeschooling parent