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Google Hangouts for the Language Classroom

Today at the University of Iowa's Tête-à-Tête Professional Development Workshop, I facilitated an expository session about Google Hangouts for use in the foreign language classroom.  The digital handout for this workshop is provided at http://bit.ly/HangoutTeT.

I discovered Google Hangouts during my still ongoing hiatus of not teaching English language learners, so I don't have direct experience.  However, in a professional and educational context, I have become more accustomed to and confident with Google Hangouts as both a consumer and producer of this free and easily accessible internet video conferencing (IVC) program.

Google Hangouts as Consumer

I knew about Google Hangouts for about a year before I realized its full potential.  I was in the participant selection process of my dissertation project when I found Victor at http://www.youtube.com/user/Gimmeaflakeman Victor is an English language teacher in Nagoya, Japan who uses Google Hangouts with other English language teachers and foreigners in Japan.  Victor and his associates discuss a wide range of all things Japanese and/or English teaching.  I believe that the Google Hangouts videos that he and his colleagues share can be very helpful for the English language teaching community in Japan and to prospective English language teachers in Japan.


The video above is one of my favorite videos that Victor posted about culture shock and reverse culture shock, which are topics that are strongly connected to my dissertation research project.

As I watched more and more of his videos, I learned how beneficial Google Hangouts can be not only for those in the Hangout but also for casual and dedicated viewers.  Watching Victor's Hangouts helped me learn about the advantages and disadvantages as well as the additional features of the software.

Google Hangouts as a Producer

As an instructional designer at Kirkwood Community College, I helped design the Fall 2013 Technology Teaching & Learning Institute around IVC.  One of the workshops that I lead and facilitated was for Google Hangouts.  I helped faculty from many disciplines, including ESL and foreign language, learn about and how to use this tool.

Most of the faculty attended were not distance learning instructors.  One of our goals was to help them learn how to integrate Google Hangouts in their face-to-face classrooms.  Many ideas arose from this institute.  Some teachers saw this is an opportunity for multiple guest speakers to join the class.  Others liked the idea of having virtual office hours to collaborate over writing assignments.  Another idea that a number of faculty had was for students to participate on their own through Google Hangouts outside the class where they could invite the teacher to drop in for a bit.

Although I produced some demonstration Google Hangouts, I am more proud of producing learning solutions for faculty, who either did not know about this IVC opportunity or who did not have the confidence to develop a learning solution with Google Hangouts with the support of their peers.

My Direction with Google Hangouts

I foresee collaborating with faculty more often using Google Hangouts in addition to Adobe Connect and Zoom, which are more versatile but require licenses.   Within the next year or so, I would like to diversify my professional learning network experience to include more Google Hangouts and Google Hangouts on Air sessions.

Following Victor's example, I would like to use Google Hangouts to connect English language teachers from around the world to discuss the similarities and differences concerning successes and challenges in their teaching contexts.  This also provides a more hands-on approach to learning about local teaching strategies and intercultural communication issues.  I hope that the use of tools like Google Hangouts can help the English teaching profession better understand the transferable and non-transferable learning solutions to the classroom.

Your Direction?

I'm interested in learning more about how language teachers and teacher educators are using Google Hangouts in their classrooms or beyond the classroom.  I know there's a Google Plus community for that, but I'm hoping this blog post reaches out to English language teachers and teacher educators in particular.  Perhaps I need to initiate a Google Plus community on my own, but first I need to finish my dissertation.

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