This latest installment in an ongoing series of posts about using Google features and products for educational purposes is all about Google Groups. Now, before we get started, if you have an LMS, such as D2L or Edmodo, through your institution, Google groups might just duplicate features of that platform. For those of you who do not have access to such a system, Google Groups is absolutely a great way to get students discussing topics online. Either way, I hope that you explore using online discussion boards with your students at all ages and language levels.
Google Groups, like so many other resources I share, is completely free and takes no time at all to get started. If you have a Gmail account, you can access Google Groups just by signing in with the same email and password. The fact that this information can gain you access to a wide array of sites and connect to one main account is one of the biggest perks of using any or all of Google’s products. It is much simpler than flipping from one username and password to the next between different websites. If you do not have an account, creating one is as simple as filling out a short form.
Once you are signed in, you can click “Browse all” to see what people are talking about in different regions. While hopping into an existing group may suit your needs, I envision educators creating their own groups and using the site as a platform for online discussions.
Creating a Group
To do that, click “Create Group” and fill in the information about your group, for example name, description, and permissions. You have the option to make the group public or restrict access by requiring users to ask to join or by sending invitations just to the group of people you would like to include, like the students in a certain class. Personally, the web forum group type seems the most useful to me; it “allows people to interact with the group and have engaging and interactive discussions on the web. It has web optimized features enabled including moderation tools.” Once you click “Create” and confirm your settings as a member of the group, you are ready to start adding participants and topics.
To add participants, click “Members” and then “Manage.” The next part will be slightly different depending on how you set up the group, but you can send invitations, approve requests to join, and perform other member-related tasks from here. The age of your students may dictate how open the group is and how much responsibility is given to members. For younger students, I would recommend adding members via invitation and setting the permissions so that you (the owner) and possibly one or two other teachers (the managers) have a great deal of control over who is participating and what is actually posted. With adults, it is entirely up to you and your students how much ownership students have over the group. Perhaps the managers could be a group of students that changes monthly throughout the year. As you can see, there are many possibilities.
Using the Group: Some Ideas
Once you have members, start posting! Participants can do this by clicking “New topic” or replying to posts on old topics by clicking “Post reply.”
Honestly, Google Groups is not a site that I have heard a lot about, but it could certainly be used extensively in an educational context. Here are some ways you can use it:
- Post questions as topics and ask students to respond.
- Have students post homework questions to get support from you and other students outside of regular class hours.
- Let students submit assignments and require a certain number of comments or responses from each student.
From my perspective, the goal of Google Groups for teachers is to increase engagement, and since Google Groups can be accessed at any time from any device, it makes communication easier.
Feel free to leave a comment on this topic below and, if you learned something new in this post, maybe you want to check out one of my previous Google+ Education posts, too.
Part 1 – Google Hangouts and Google Hangouts on Air
Part 2 – Google Sites
Part 3 – Google Drive
Part 4 – Google Forms and Flubaroo
Part 5 – Google Classroom
Part 6 – Google Keep
Part 7 – Blogger