Monday, May 16, 2016

What Does Google Spaces Mean for Education

What does #GoogleSpaces Mean for Education by @EdTechnocation #GoogleEDU

As of it's release on May 16, 2016, Google Spaces is not yet available for Google Apps for Education accounts. But since gaining access to it with my personal Google account, I can't help but think how this might impact the classroom. Continue reading for an explanation of Spaces and some ideas for how it might be used with teachers and students in the future.



Google Spaces in a Nutshell

Screenshots from the iOS app.

Spaces, in my opinion, is a mix between Hangouts chat feature, Google+ Collections, and Google+ Communities. It's like a mini social network, but without the full blown networking that many schools and teachers are afraid of or just don't want to deal with. You don't have to be a member of Google+ in order to use Spaces. It's a standalone app that seems to borrow some key features from other Google apps.

Spaces is referred to as a group sharing experience. You can easily set up a Space around a specific topic. Then invite your family, friends, or coworkers to participate in the sharing and conversation around that topic. Google Search, YouTube, and Chrome are built in to the app, so sharing becomes very easy. And each shared item has it's own chat discussion built in.

Screenshot of the Spaces web version.


So What Does Google Spaces Mean for Education?

Right now, Google Spaces is not available for Google Apps for Education accounts. It's only available for personal Google accounts. If you don't have a personal Google account, you should.

But, I really hope Spaces becomes available for GAFE accounts and soon! And I think it will. Because Spaces seems to fill a missing niche in its Education Suite. A dedicated and private social networking like "space" for students and teachers to communicate. GAFE accounts do have access to Google+, but it's strictly for older students. Younger students can't even use it. And in some cases, schools don't want students to be able to use a social network in the classroom. There is a still (an unnecessary) fear around social networks. But I think Google Spaces can alleviate that concern.

Why? Because Google Spaces is a dedicated standalone sharing platform that doesn't require it's users to be a part of something bigger like Google+. So here are some ideas for how I think Google Spaces can be used in Education (once it's available for GAFE accounts):

  1. Professional Development - Just from experiencing Google Spaces on day one,  it seems like it would be a great service to use for professional development. Before, during, and after a workshop, conference session, a course, or virtual PD. The instructor or presenter can invite the attendees to the Space and it could serve as a powerful backchannel tool.
  2. Online Class Discussions  - At least within the Google ecosystem, teachers have been making due with apps like Google+, Hangouts, Google Groups, and Google Classroom to hold online discussions with students. But they all either seem to be missing something or are just too complicated. Google Spaces seems easy to set up and use, and either incorporates the best features or expands on the missing features from all of those other apps.
  3. Department Backchannels - Admit it, you hate checking your email. Because you can't keep up with it and it's just cluttered with useless meeting reminders and conversations you don't need to be a part of. I've been starting to use more chat based applications to hold conversations with groups of people rather than emails, and it's way easier to manage. What if your grade level or department had a dedicated Google Space for sharing resources and holding conversations? I see a lot of benefit to having a Space for this sort of thing.
  4. Parent Communication - As teachers we are always looking for simple ways to share whats happening in our classroom with our student's families. A Google Space might be a great way to do this. You can invite both your students and their parents to a Google Space. Students can share photos of their projects, links to their videos and blog posts, and more. And families can reply with questions, praise, and excitement!
What ideas do you have for using Google Spaces in your classroom? 
Please share in the comments!


Get Started with Google Spaces


Google Spaces is available for Android, iOS, and the web.
There is also a Chrome extension that allows you to easily share web content directly to your Spaces. Get started with a personal Google account today and wait with anticipation for it to be available for GAFE accounts.