Monday, June 15, 2015

Google Hangouts

Google Hangouts is a quick and simple way to communicate with others. With this tool you can chat, send text messages, connect to a telephone number, do a video conference, or even share your screen with another computer.
In this post I will walk you through getting setup, show you how to use the tool, and give you some ideas about how this could be used in your classroom.
In this post:

  1. Setting up
  2. Basic chatting
  3. More about video conferencing
  4. Classroom applications

1. Setting up

To get started you need to have your Google Plus account setup. Be sure you are logged into your Google account and visit
If you are not setup, the site will prompt you to get your account working.
Once you get in look for the hangouts icon in the upper right corner.
The button acts as a toggle - click it once to open the sidebar, click it again to close the sidebar.

2. Basic chatting

To start a chat session (typing back and forth in a window on the computer) I will select a contact from the list of contacts I have. You can see the first two in the list below. If I click on one of the names Google will open a chat window with that contact.
I'll select Michael Partridge - I always like talking to him. Clicking his name opens a chat window. To chat I type my message in the field at the bottom of the window and press the enter/return key.
Let's take a look at the buttons at the top left portion of the window, starting with the one that looks like a phone. Clicking this button will call the phone number you have for this contact. If it is a US phone number it will make the call without any charges. Once connected you would use the speakers and microphone on your computer to talk to the person answering the phone.
Moving toward the left, the next button is used to add more people to the conversation. Clicking the button will bring up a list of contacts, however you can search as well.
The button on the far left is a camera.
Clicking the camera will invite Michael to have a video conference with me. A new window will open for me ...
... and he will see something like this on his screen.
Once he answers the call we will be able to chat "face to face".
One more button - it might be there, or it might not. The SMS button will allow you to send text messages to a phone. 
Be careful - you can send text messages to any number - it will try to send text messages to a phone that does not accept text messages.

3. More about video conferencing

I'd like to share more about what you can do in a video chat session. 

First let's look at the buttons across the top.

Working from left to right
  1. Invite people
  2. Mute microphone
  3. Turn camera off
  4. Adjust bandwidth usage
  5. Settings
  6. Leave call
1. Invite people. When you click on this button (only available if you initiated the call) you will see this screen:
As you can see from the image, one way to add others to this call would be to send them the link. Additionally, you can use the same method as listed before, inviting people from your contacts. 
Also notice the "+ Add telephone" link - using this you can add a phone call into the conversation. It would not include video, but the telephone user would be able to hear and be heard as part of the chat.
2. Mute microphone. By clicking this you cannot be heard. Click it again to un-mute.
3. Turn camera off. You can be heard, but not seen. Saves bandwidth. Click it again to turn it back on.
4. Adjust bandwidth usage. This allows you to adjust the quality of the video you are sending. Adjust the slider to what works best for you.
5. Settings. On this screen you can adjust your camera, mic source, and speaker output. If everything is working it is probably best to leave these alone. :-)
6. Leave call. This is how you disconnect (hang up).

Next let's look at the bottom of the window.

Notice the two tiles representing the two people in the "call".
As the moderator of the call I can hover over the guest, select the menu, and manage the guest - make the guest the presenter, look at his/her profile, kick him out (don't tempt me), ignore, or mute. Making the guest the presenter or muting the guest will notify the guest of their new role. Ejecting and Ignoring pop up a warning for the moderator letting you know what will happen.

Now let's look at the tools on the Left side of the screen.

The tools are:
  1. Chat
  2. Screenshare
  3. Capture
  4. Google Effects
  5. Draw
  6. Control Room
  7. Apps...
1. Chat. Clicking on this will open a text chat window on the right side of the screen. This might be a good way of sharing feedback/questions during a presentation. Click to show, click again to hide.
Notice the link to your google drive in the chat window - use this to share links to documents you may want to collaborate on.
2. Screenshare. This allows you to present your screen to others in the conference. They will see your mouse moving etc. Please keep in mind that there will be a delay. 
After you select the screen to share you will see the dialogue box at the top of the window.
3. Capture. Capture allows you to take "photos" during the conference. After clicking the capture button on the left you will see a "Take Photo" button at the bottom center of the conference window.
 Any images you take will be collected in the lower right corner of the window.
Clicking the images will open an album of your captured images.
4. Google Effects. This is just fun. Add backgrounds, put on hats, etc... Play all you want. I am only going to show you one thing. How to turn it off. 
For most of the effects, click once to add, click again to remove. Look at the bottom of the effects window (on the right) and find the "x Remove all effects" link - that will help you out. Have fun exploring this section.
5. Draw. This allows you to draw on the screen. Let's look at the tools in this menu, starting at the top...
In the top section there are three icons. Selecting the rectangle will allow you to draw on the screen. Selecting the portrait button will allow you to attach drawings to the person in the chat - what you draw will follow their movements. Finally, the trashcan will remove anything you have drawn on the page.
In the lower section of the window there are three main tabs - Draw, Stamp, Text.
When on the Draw tab you can select a color and tool size and begin drawing.
When you select the Stamp tab you will see several stamps you can apply to the page. Note that you can scroll up and down through the choices and that there are categories to choose from at the bottom of the window.
Finally, by selecting the Text tab you can choose a color and font (very limited choice of fonts). Enter the text you want in the area that says "Sample Text."
6. Control room. This is used for Hangouts on Air. Hangouts on Air is a way to broadcast live video. The Control room app lets you decide what is broadcast (you can allow other participants to be featured in the video stream). We will explore this further in a future post.
7. Apps. Here you can search for and install plug-ins and enhancements to your Hangouts.
Click the Add apps button.
Select an app you like. Hover over the App tile to see more information about the app.
Agree to the term of usage to install the app.
The other users in the call will also need to agree to the usage terms in order to use the app.
Again - there is plenty to explore - have fun here. :-)

4. Classroom applications

So what? I mean, why does any of this matter? What difference can it make in your teaching?
The difference is in how you apply the technology.
Check out this chart with ideas based on content areas:

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