Going Mobile With Google+

Google+ in EductionEdReach has been looking at all the facets of the new Google+ platform this past week.  Today’s focus is going to be on how Google+ can work on mobile devices (Android, iOS) and how that could potentially impact education.  There has been no formal announcement for Google+ going under the Google Apps for Education umbrella so the product can be easily used in schools, but there is talk that it “might” be coming.  How would that affect mobile learning? More importantly, how COULD that affect mobile learning?  Here is a breakdown of what we know of Google+ and mobile devices as well as some thoughts on how this technology could help in a mobile classroom environment.

Android: The Google+ app for Android phones was in the marketplace right away when Google+ was released.  The app is very clean and straightforward.  You can easily hop between the following:

  • Stream – You can see the information from who you are following
  • Photos – You can see photos in album views from 1) People in your circles, 2) Photos of you, 3) Your albums or 4) Photos on your phone.  I really like how quick and fast this area moves.
  • Circles – You can go here to choose a circles of yours to see who is IN that circle.  Allows for you to quickly hop to a specific person’s page.
  • Huddle – Group text messaging.  I’m very excited to see this grow. I don’t know that many are using it right now or know that it’s there. I sent a message to some colleagues and they have yet to respond. Could be they are on a different phone (iOS that doesn’t have this yet) or that notifications for this aren’t set up on that person’s particular phone.
  • Profile – A direct link to all of your content in your particular profile.
  • Notifications – An area at the bottom of the app has a Notifications link showing what you have missed out on recently.  Very handy to plow through those “follows” and messages if you haven’t yet gotten to those types of things.

The mobile app is pretty streamlined.  During these first few weeks of using it, the community has voiced a few critiques that are important to point out:

  • There’s not an easy way to “share” something.  If you’re browsing through your stream and you see a post you like and you want to “share” it with others on Google+, there is no current way to do that.
  • Some don’t like that after installing an app, when taking a picture on your phone from anywhere (not just in the Google+ app), the picture now automatically goes to your Google+ photos area.  The picture is marked as private until you “un-private” it.  It appears this is on by default, however, the user can turn this off by going to MENU > INSTANT UPLOAD and unchecking the “Automatically upload new photos & videos to a private web album”

iOS App: Currently, as this post is written, the Google+ app for iOS has still not been released in the App store.  Many articles and references to workers from Google say that the app has been submitted and is just being held up with Apple’s approval process.

Mobile Device Browser: Don’t have the iOS Google+ app yet?  No problem!  Even though the official app is still not released for iOS, the use of Google+ in the web browser on an iOS device (iPad, iPod Touch, iPhone) or Android device isn’t a horrible experience. In fact, I think it’s one of the best experiences I’ve had “in-browser” for navigating a site.  You can navigate in your browser to http://plus.google.com and keen observers will notice that your device will forward you to the mobile address of http://m.google.com/app/plus. Login with your credentials and start browsing around!  Tip: I would tap the “bookmark” button in the browser to make a shortcut for your home screen so you can easily get back here.

Your “Home” area shows the same choices as the App, minus Huddle.  I like the consistency here with the App so it doesn’t matter how you get here, the experience is close to the same.  I also like when looking at your social stream, you can flip the screen to the right to see any “Incoming” posts from those following you but you’re not following yet.  If you flip to the left instead, you get the “Nearby” posts.  Part of the App and mobile browser experience is a little checkmark that resides on the top right that you can click to ‘check-in’ with your location.  These posts will then populate the “Nearby” stream so you can easily connect with others around you.  I’m guessing this will take off more as people use the “checkin” features built into the App and mobile versions of Google+.

Currently in the browser experience, there is no way to take or upload a picture, not even from the Photos area.

Educational Impact

Google+ as a platform on mobile devices?  Think about all students under a Google Apps domain having Google+ access and the world of possibilities this could open up on mobile devices.  And I don’t mean to go the route of “doom and gloom” for what could happen that would be negative.  Let’s focus on the positive.

  • Huddle allowing for students or teachers/students to “group text” (with Google Apps). (stop snarking with the eyebrows about district policies and such right now related to students texting — we’re just dreaming)
  • Photos/video uploading instantaneously to the cloud.  This could help to foster a discussion and deeper understanding about file management and what’s private and what’s not.
  • Easily communicate with class members or teacher while working “in the field” on a project.
  • An opportunity for students to ‘take the classroom with them’ where a teacher can post something to a class circle and students can get to that content anywhere.

I personally am very excited at the opportunities that Google+ could bring.  I’m more excited by the way in which the mobile aspects of Google+ don’t lose a lot of the quality (yes, some features are missing still, but that will come) that one experiences at the computer.  I’d really like to see how and if this is going to be included in Google Apps for Education.

With Google+ only have been out now for about two weeks, what are other thoughts you have about how it could be incorporated on mobile devices?

What do you think?

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