Tuesday, August 2, 2016

5 Google Tools for Staff Professional Development

In schools we are always looking for creative ways to offer meaningful professional development to staff. This might mean:

  • Flexible PD where staff can participate at a time of day or day of the week that works best for them
  • Interactive PD where staff can communicate with others, share ideas, ask questions, and more
  • Engaging PD with the use of multimedia to go beyond typical text or slideshows

There are certainly dozens of excellent technology tools to use for delivering professional development, and we should try out a wide variety to discover which ones work best for our staff, content, and goals. Many of the free Google tools can lend themselves to providing flexible, interactive, and engaging PD. In this blog post we will take a brief look at five possible Google tools to use:

  • Google Hangout
  • Google Hangouts on Air
  • Google Classroom
  • Google Communities
  • Google Sites

See below for details on each of these tools, ideas for use in delivering professional development, and additional resources to help you learn more.

1) Google Hangouts

Hangouts is Google’s free video conferencing tool. It includes many features:

  • Connect with up to 25 people at one time (for Google Apps for Education users)
  • Invite people into the Hangout even if they do not have a Google account
  • Each person can speak with and be seen by the group through video conferencing
  • Users can choose to show their desktop, rather than their webcam, to show a website, slideshow, document, or such.
  • Works on any device (PC, Mac, Chromebooks, desktop, laptop, tablet, phone)

Hangouts can be a great way to run professional development for people who are not able to be in the same location. This can be helpful when staff are spread out over a distance, or at several locations, or for PD sessions that are held outside of the normal school day, such as evenings or weekends. Even though the participants are physically in different locations, they can all see and hear each other, and can communicate as if they were all in the same room.

To learn more about Google Hangouts, see my resources below:

  • “Google Hangouts for Schools” - slideshow and training video - Website link

2) Google Hangouts on Air

A Hangout on Air is a special type of Google Hangout that adds some additional features which can be very valuable for professional development. These include:

  • Live broadcasting for an unlimited number of viewers - Although you can still only have 25 people chatting inside the Hangout, you can now have as many people as you want watching a live stream of the video.
  • Automatic recording - When the Hangout on Air is done, the video is automatically recorded and saved to your YouTube channel.

Using a Hangout on Air for PD is a great way to connect with more people than can participate in a normal Hangout. This is an easy way to record your PD sessions, so other staff members can watch the video later at a date and time that is convenient for them. They also have the benefit of being able to pause and replay portions of the video as needed to move through the material at their own pace (for more details on YouTube shortcuts to improve your viewing options see this blog post).

Note: To run a Hangout on Air, you do need to activate Google+ for your account. Google+ can be accessed and enabled as needed at: https://plus.google.com

To learn more about Google Hangouts on Air, see my resources below:

  • Blog post - “Creating Video PD with Free Google Tools” - Website link

3) Google Classroom

Google Classroom lets teachers create a private site for them and their students where they can create assignments, hold discussions, share resources, and more. A lot of times when we think of Google Classroom, we think about using it with our students. However, it can be a great option for teachers as well, since they are students themselves when participating in professional development. Schools can use Classroom for PD sessions, study groups, book studies, and more. Some options for using Classroom for PD include:

  • The stream or the “About” page can be used to post resources, links, videos, and other instructional material.
  • The stream can be used to post discussion questions which the teachers can respond to, and can respond to each other as well.
  • Assignments can be posted for specific tasks the teachers need to complete and submit.

To learn more about Google Classroom, see my resources below:

  • "Google Classroom Overview" - slideshow and training video - Website link

4) Google Communities

Another great option for delivering PD is Google Communities:

  • A Google Community is an online forum or discussion group centered around a shared topic.
  • Communities can be public or private.
  • Communities can be open to anyone who wants to join or can require approval from the moderator to join.
  • Members of the Community can post to the group.
  • Posts can include text, links, images, videos, events, or polls.
  • Posts can be organized by categories set up within the Community.

Because a Community is an online forum, it can be a great way to organize and run ongoing PD, such as a book study.

  • Posts can be used to share resources, links, videos, and other instructional material.
  • Posts can be used to share a discussion question for participants to reply to.
  • Teachers can get notified by email when a new post has been made.
  • Teachers can participate at a time that is convenient for them.

Note: To create or join a Google Community, you do need to activate Google+ for your account. Google+ can be accessed and enabled as needed at: https://plus.google.com

To learn more about Google Communities, see my resources below:

  • "Google Communities for Schools" - help guide, slide show, and training video - Website link

5) Google Sites

A final Google tool to consider for staff PD is Google Sites. This tool has many useful features:

  • Free and easy website creation
  • Ability to insert and embed text, images, links, videos, Google Docs, Google Forms, and much more
  • Privacy options to control who can access each part of the site

With Google Sites you can create web pages for specific PD topics, or create a multi-page website for an entire PD course. Teachers could access the content directly on the Google Site, or you could embed the webpages in another tool such as your school’s learning management system (LMS). Using Google Sites in combination with your LMS has several benefits:

  • Take advantage of the easy but powerful web design tools in Sites.
  • Take advantage of the course tools in your LMS (timed release of content, tracking participation, grading, etc).
  • Easily migrate the content to a different LMS in the future if needed, since all the content is saved in Sites rather than tied to a specific LMS.

To learn more about Google Sites, see my resources below:

  • Google Sites help guide, slideshow, and several training videos - Website link


Certainly there are many other Google tools and non-Google tools that can be used for professional development. However, these tools (Hangouts, Classroom, Communities, and Sites) all provide useful tools and features that can help make PD more flexible, interactive, and engaging. If you have used any of these tools, or have others you recommend for delivering PD, please share your ideas in the comments below.

Post by Eric Curts. Connect with Eric on Twitter at twitter.com/ericcurts and on Google+ at plus.google.com/+EricCurts1


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