A Beginner’s Guide to Using Google Circles to Create a Class Community
April 14, 2014
Here is how to use Google Circles to Create a Class Community: Steps for the novice
Google Circles were launched in the summer of 2011, when I loved to hate technology. I was convinced that the word “Friend” was going to be completely destroyed by Facebook, people were going to stop talking to their neighbors and real relationships were going to be lost to electronic ones. I worried that online social networks would destroy real community, with people who talked to each other, watched each other’s kids and shared food.
Then I realized it was time to leave that binary thinking behind. Technology and community are not mutually exclusive. In fact, social networks can enhance both our professional and personal life, help us find interesting content and let us get to know our neighbors. It all depends on how we use it.
Forming Online Communities
I have been seeking more ways for my online students to interact with and learn from each other. I want them to be able to easily share information and ideas. All roads have led me to Google Circles. It was time to learn something about these circle things and I am here to share my discoveries with you.
Google Circles are one of the easiest ways to share information between people, and a great asset to any online class. They are simple to use and easy to understand. I have used them with my students, who are in middle and high school. They have mastered the tools without problems. When I have a new group of online learners, I create and share the circle first and then walk them through the creation of their own circles from the WizIQ Virtual Classroom.
Create and Share the Circle
Create a Google+ Account:
Simply go here, and create an account.
Once you have a Google + Account, you are ready to create a circle.
Click on your name to get to your Google+ page
Click on “Home,” and then scroll down to people to get to your Circles page.
To create a Circle, go to “Your Circles.”
Click the large empty circle on the left to create a Circle.
Name the Circle for the course and add your students. You will instruct your students to add their classmates.
Share the Circle that you have created with your students.
Walk your students through the creation of their own circle from the WizIQ Virtual Classroom
According to Google,” When you share a circle, you share a list of the people who are in that circle at that time.” The name of the circle isn’t revealed. You could have a circle titled “My boring students.” When you share the circle, the students will never see how you refer to them. Furthermore, if you change the group after you have shared it, no one will know. When creating this technology, Google decided to default to greater privacy.
You cannot just give your students a circle. This is a tricky (yet essential) concept if you want your students to all have the same circle (i.e. a circle with the entire class). Your students must create and name their own circles. You can share the circle with them, but it will then be up to them to re-create that circle in their account and include the entire class.
If your students are familiar with Google+, a notice will simply appear in their stream. I like to assume that this is all new to the students, so I send them an email with instructions. I then run an orientation session on WizIQ, where I talk them through the process.
When you add their email address, your students will receive a notice like this:
I instruct them to view the post.
When they see the post, it is not always obvious what they must do. They should “Add people.” They will then be asked if they want to “Create a new circle or add to an existing circle.” I instruct them to create a new circle, and name it for the course.
Teach them Some Manners
The students can post anything that they want to, to any circle. The trick is teaching your students how to interact within the class’s Google + circles as professionals (or at least as scholars). This does not mean that they cannot be funny or social. It simply means that there is a difference between ‘sharing with friends’ and ‘sharing with a learning community’. This is one of the real strengths of Google +: it is easy to share to specific groups of people.
How Can You Use the Circle
The possibilities here are endless. I post the week’s work, including reading and writing assignments. I also share interesting articles or videos that are related to what we are studying. I ask questions and encourage dialog. I use it to continue conversations that began in the online classroom, by including quotes from conversations and asking the students to continue their dialog. I also share snippets of student’s essays and writing assignments, to demonstrate exemplary work.
Google Circles are a Great Resource for the Online Teacher
Since Google+ is a social network, and learning is a social activity, it is easy to encourage conversations and interactive learning. Sharing information is swift and tidy. Commenting is simple. Google Circle will change the way you create an online community.
I am a teacher, hiker, mother, dancer and home-maker. I have taught pre-school through SAT prep. I am exploring ways to create on-line learning communities for home-schooled middle school and high school students. In particular, I am starting a low-residency on-line middle school. I would like to help young people explore important ideas while enjoying their lives! You can learn more about my programs at www.onlineclassesforgroovykids.org.