One of the great opportunities that social media provides is the ability to find, connect with and learn from people with whom we share interests and passions. Because of social media, I know that it doesn’t matter if I am the only person who teaches a particular subject in my building. I know that even if I can’t find the professional development I am looking for in my building, I can find it among my colleagues on the web. I also know that I can find that one other teacher in a thousand who wants to, say, build a life-sized replica of the TARDIS to use as a podcasting booth. Thanks to social media, I am not alone.

In fact, this Challenge is a great example of how we can connect and learn together through social media. Tomorrow, you’ll learn about another example based on Twitter chats. Today, I wanted to focus on one of my favorite ways to connect with groups of like-minded educators through Google+ generally, and Google+ communities specifically.


If you are an educator in the EVSC (or in another Google Apps for Education school), you already have access to Google+ through your school Gmail account (in the EVSC it is your [email protected] account). Google+ is Google’s social media piece. In some ways, it is similar to Facebook. In other ways, it is similar to Twitter. In others, it is similar to Skype. Obviously, there is a lot here, and more than I can cover in a single post. If you want to learn more about Google+ in general, I recommend the video and links below as a great starting point:

Google+ Communities

One of my favorite features of Google+ is the Communities feature. Communities are spaces in which groups of Google+ users gather to share and work together. Inside Google+ Communities, users can post updates, make announcements, share resources, ask questions and receive answers, invite other community members to Google+ Hangouts or other events, and generally collaborate. Here’s a short intro video:

Communities can be private or open to the public. They can be organized around any topic or group as well. Inside a Community,  the owner can set topic categories to help users organize the content. Google+ Communities could serve as an excellent learning management system as well, but would require that Google+ be open to students, which is not the case in the EVSC.

Users can create Communities or can search for communities that already exist to join. There are many great education-focused Google+ Communities. Here are a few communities that you might want to check out:

How to Get Started

You will need to be logged into your Google account. If you do not have a Google account, setting one up is easy.  For EVSC employees, you already have an EVSC Gmail account.

Once you are logged in, you will want to open the Google+ feature of your Google Apps for Education account. You can get there by clicking on the apps grid or your +Name in the upper right-hand corner of any Google Search window. You can also just go directly to

From inside the Google+ interface, you will then want to hover over the Home button in the upper-left until you see the options drop-down. Then, select Communities.

From that window, you can search for and join communities, have communities recommended to you, and even create your own communities.  Public communities will have a button that says “Join” and private communities will have a button that says “Ask to Join.”

There are plenty of resources for getting started with Google+ Communities. Here are few notable ones:

Suggested Uses

  • Create a Community for your School
  • Create a Community for your PLCs
  • Join a Community for your Subject Area.
  • Join a Community for your Grade-Level.
  • Create a Community for your Organization.
  • Create a Community for your Team, Program, or Activity.
  • Join a Community based on a Professional Interest (e.g. PBL, Maker Spaces, EdTech, RTI).
  • Join a Community based on Your Role (e.g. Administrator, Coach, Teacher, Media Specialist, Counselor).
  • If available, create a Community for your Classes.
  • Create Communities for Groups that you belong to across Organizations.

Why it Matters (Teaching Rubric)

Having a space that enables effective collaboration with colleagues (Competency 4.1) and an online tool that opens up multiple opportunities for ongoing professional development (Competency 4.2), is tremendously valuable to educators today.

Additional Resources

Of course, Google+ is only one of many social media resources that provide professional growth opportunities and support collaboration. Many teachers use Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, EduClipper, and other tools to connect and learn online.

Your Challenge

Today’s challenge is to look at the options in a Collaboration and Professional Learning tool like Google+ Communities and reflect on how you could use this resource to connect with and learn from other educators.  Share those reflections in the comments below and if you have another great tool for collaboration and professional learning please feel free to add it to your comments as well.   Commenting on others responses is a great way to share ideas and make educational connections, just remember that “active participation” is more than just an “attaboy” for someone else. Enjoy!

How to Comment

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How to Comment


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  1. I am now officially on Google+ whoohooo! Before today’s challenge I had heard of Google+ but really wasn’t sure what it was or if it would be just one more social media outlet to add to Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, etc. But after watching the video and creating an account I can see it has taken the best aspect from those outlets along with Skype and others and has really created a one stop shop for communicating with others via the Circles (I added a friend and it gave me suggestions on others because it said I might be lonely with only one person in my circle). This like many of the other programs is something I’m going to have to poke around and see what all it is capable of doing. It has a lot of upsides and is in a format that I am already familiar with and comfortable using. As Mrs. Claybaugh said each of the EVSC instructors have accounts so building teams and committees for collaboration has just become much easier.

    • I had the same initial reaction to Google+. Another social media outlet? But G+ won me over with communities and hangouts. I find that all social media tools have a role to play in my PLN. The trick is find out what each has to offer.

  2. I have used Google+ before, but have mainly just used Hangouts. I had no idea there was a whole other side to Google+ beyond the Facebook/Twitter/Skype qualities. The communities aspect is really interesting. It reminds me a little of Pinterest in that you can search for groups and follow different communities that you are interested in. I found one just specifically for Google apps in relation to education. I am always looking for new apps to incorporate into my classroom and found some of the tips really useful. Also, since every EVSC teacher has a Google account, it would be great to form a community just for my first grade team. It would give us an organized and easy to use platform to exchange ideas.

  3. I’ve been using Google+ since the beginning of the school year. I’m starting to find a lot of great collaborative resources. I like that it is a more professional way to connect with other educators. While I enjoy Facebook and Twitter, they can sometimes get tedious having to weed through all the personal items to get to the educator content I follow. The connection with Google+ and everything else Google is great as well. It is simply a tremendous collaboration and communication tool for 21st century educators.

  4. Google+ is an excellent resource for educators. I’ve been in several communities before, but I’m not currently a member of any. I enjoyed sharing resources with other teachers and having the ability to ask for advice. In addition, communities have the ability to do group Hangouts. I’ve taken part in a few of these real-time collaborations, and they’re always enlightening. Many subjects like yearbook only require one teacher per building; you don’t get the typical PLC collaboration that way. Communities are a nice substitute.

  5. I am a big fan of Google+. I have used it for quite a while. The communities are awesome, I have learned quite a bit and gotten many ideas from posts through the various communities I have joined. I love the communities created by the DOE, there have been a number of great posts through those communities that I have learned from and used the information. I know that if I have a question, I could post it on a community (or two) and usually get an answer. G+, Twitter, and Pinterest have changed what I do in my classroom for the better.

    • You’ve hit on one of my favorite uses of communities. I love being able to ask a question to a group of folks who are most likely to know the answer. Twitter can be useful that way, too, but I think when people join a community, they are more inclined to answer questions and support other community members.

  6. I played around with Google+ a little bit. It is like Pinterest, Twitter and Facebook combined. It is always fun to find out what other teachers are doing in their classes, which can give you wonderful ideas. I love the ideas of making communities and circles to put your friends in appropriate areas instead of having everyone jumbled together. This will be a tool that I will use in the future!

  7. I love Google+. By far, this is my preferred way to connect with others in my Professional Learning Network. My favorite part within communities is the ability to search within posts and view only the threads that I am interested in looking at/reading more about. I love that everything within Google + is tied together so I can instantly chat or Hangout with my contacts as well. Also, I have personally found Google+ as a great tool in working to spread the word about events or ask questions to members of my PLN. I learn so much from others on Google+!

  8. Google+ groups and hangouts are awesome! I belong to several that pivot around education. I agree with the video it is nice to be able to collaborate with people of similar interests. I like the tech featured groups, Instructional Technology group, eRev group, Five Star Pivot Point (IDOE Online), and many others. It helps me feel connected and keeps me informed of new ideas or ways to utilize older ideas in new ways. It is a pleasant surprise to open Google and find notices of new information that is being shared by those who know.

  9. Currently I am the only teacher in my building that teachers Business Law and Web Design. It would be nice to see what other teachers are doing. There are so many resources out there for English, History, & Math teachers. I do not find that to be true for Business Law. I am always looking for the best cases to use or a good mock trial. Currently I am a member of several technology communities in Edmodo. I love that because I stumble up new ideas I did not even know I needed.

    • I agree that these types of online communities transform our work and make it easier to find great resources. If you don’t find a community around your topic of interest, try building one and sharing it out. If you build it, they will come :)

  10. The Google Classroom has always been a point of interest but I’ve never fully dug into it which the link of Google Apps for Educators you posted had me quickly realize I’d spent 20 minutes scrolling through the page. It’s like Pinterest meets Facebook and Twitter together with a collaborative environment. I’ll find time to really dig into this more soon! I’ve been involved with some Twitter chats before and those are great but this fits the style of putting more info out there compared to being restricted to 140 characters each tweet including the hashtag. It’s comforting to have some people who are truly using this daily within their classroom and buildings to know I could bounce ideas or get help from too.

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