Confer with Students Via Google Hangout

I started using Google Hangouts when we relaunched Two Writing Teachers in October. The six of us have planning meetings on Google Hangouts, which is an excellent way to keep us connected despite the distance.  While I have been technical glitches with Google Hangouts, I have found it to be superior to Skype for the video calls I need to have.  For instance, I did a Hangout on Air with Jee Young Kim’s class in Singapore to talk about the Classroom Slice of Life Story Challenge. She recorded it the hangout and within minutes of finishing Jee Young uploaded it to YouTube so we could share it with other classrooms who may have had similar questions about getting started with the Classroom Challenge.

I started thinking of other ways to use Google Hangouts after we used it a few times as a team of co-authors. My mind turned to sick days.  I thought of kids I’ve taught who have had to stay home from school for a week. They return to school being so far behind in writing workshop. They may have gotten sick right before drafting began. They return and — poof! — the class is already revising their work.

Sometimes it’s possible to get a little work done while convalescing. After a day or two at home, students may be too contagious to school, but well enough to do some writing at home.  Instead of spending hours watching TV or playing on the computer, they can do some writing so they don’t have to play catch-up in all subject ares when they return.

Enter Google Hangouts! Imagine being able to have a writing conference with a student via Google Hangout. You can find a mutually convenient time to confer with the writer. (Yes, it may be briefing him/her on the minilessons s/he missed, but you can also have a real writing conference.) Thanks to some of the tools Google Hangouts has, you look at the student’s work if it’s in Google Drive or take hold of the student’s screen by showing them things (e.g., charts, a demonstration piece) on your computer.

I wanted to test this out so I asked the TWT Team for assistance. Anna graciously volunteered to do this with me one afternoon while she was on maternity leave. Here’s a look:

Getting started with our conversation. (Truth be told: We didn't get right to work.)

Getting started with our conversation. (Truth be told: We didn’t get right to work.)

I was able to talk to Anna while she commented on something I wrote in a Google Doc we were working on with the rest of the TWT team.

I was able to talk to Anna while she commented on something I wrote in a Google Doc we were working on with the rest of the TWT team.

I used the "screenshare" feature in Google Hangouts to show Anna some of my writing, which I originally did on my iPad in Penultimate. (It synched to my computer so I could show it to her in Evernote.)

I used the “screenshare” feature in Google Hangouts to show Anna some of my writing, which I originally did on my iPad in Penultimate. (It synched to my computer so I could show it to her in Evernote.)

One of the neat features in Google Hangout is being able to show someone a mentor text. In this case, I showed Anna a page from Truck Stop by Anne Rockwell and Melissa Iwai that I used as a mentor for my own writing.

One of the neat features in Google Hangout is being able to show someone a mentor text. In this case, I showed Anna a page from Truck Stop by Anne Rockwell and Melissa Iwai that I used as a mentor for my own writing.

We figured out that one could still do a screen share in a Google Hangout even if one person didn't have their web camera turned on.  (Or in this case, Anna turned hers off to test this out.)

We figured out that one could still do a screen share in a Google Hangout even if one person didn’t have their web camera turned on. (Or in this case, Anna turned hers off to test this out.)

We wrapped up our conversation about writing by talking about our kids for a little while.

We wrapped up our conversation about writing by talking about our kids for a little while.

But it’s not just sick days! Have you ever run out of time in writing workshop to confer with a student? Sometimes you can wait ’til the next day, but sometimes you can’t. Instead of asking the student to stay behind at recess or come up for a few minutes during lunch, why not meet with him/her after school for a five-minute Hangout conference?

Four More Ways to Use Google Hangout with Young Writers

  • BROADCAST YOUR MINILESSONS: Have a student who is absent? Do you have parents who want to know what you’re teaching in writing workshop so they can be on-board at home? Use Hangouts On Air to record your minilesson. It’ll save to your YouTube account so the student can watch it at his/her convenience.
    • I wish Google Hangouts had been around when I was in the classroom. Back in 2008, I missed almost a week of school because my neck was in spasm and I couldn’t drive to work or move comfortably. Surely I could’ve conducted a minilesson from my couch (that would’ve been a lot less painful, and probably more effective, than typing up guest teacher plans) if the technology had been in place back then.
  • GUIDE A STUDENT WITH AN INDEPENDENT WRITING PROJECT: If you have students who are working on independent writing projects in addition to their writing workshop assignment, then you’ll know it’s hard to find a time to meet with these kids during the school day. Schedule a time to chat after school so they can brief you about their project and so you can help them move forward with their project.
  • MEET WITH A WRITING CIRCLE: I used to lead writing circles for students during lunchtime. Instead of giving up your lunchtime and making your students give up theirs, consider facilitating a writing circle for 20 minutes one evening a week with interested students.
  • A look at the Hangout app on my iPad.

    A look at the Hangout app on my iPad.

    TALK ON THE GO: You and your students can download the Google Hangouts App from the iTunes store so you can conduct a video conference on an iPad, iPhone or an iTouch (in addition to Droids). No desktop or laptop necessary!

    • I’m thinking this feature can be handy for students whose parents pull them out of school to take a vacation during a non-school vacation week. (I had a student whose mom pulled her out of school to go on a cruise every year during a non-school vacation week since it was less expensive. Forget about the message this sent to her daughter, the mom expected the teachers to prepare an extensive packet for her in advance of their vacation.) Seeing as these are unexcused absences, I believe students should have to confer with their teacher at least once during their “vacation” week.

 

Now that you’ve heard a few ideas about how one can use Google Hangout to confer with writers, can you imagine how you could use this technology with your students? There are more possibilities for using Google Hangouts for out of the classroom writing opportunities.  Please share your ideas for using Google Hangout by leaving a comment below.