Sunday / January 29

Using Google Hangouts to Support Professional Learning

Have you ever used Google Hangouts? If not, you are missing out on free and powerful collaboration tool. Get started with the basics at this helpful link.

In a nutshell, Hangouts is a free way to engage in a video conference with up to ten people. You can see each face in the conversation, and have the option of sharing screens to look at the same visuals together.

Whether you are a teacher, administrator or external partner supporting schools, you can use hangouts to collaborate beyond school walls.

As a professional learning consultant, I use hangouts regularly to support clients and connect with colleagues in the field. Here are five examples of how I am using Hangouts to enhance my work:

  1. Lead Virtual Professional Learning Communities – In our Observation Inquiry Leadership Network, for example, teacher leaders and administrators from across the U.S. and Canada meet monthly via hangouts to collaborate and support one another with a shared goal: leading peer observation inquiry to deepen job-embedded professional learning at scale. In each one-hour Hangout, we share successes and challenges then dive into a deep discussion on a team-selected question or problem-to-solve.
  1. Coach Teacher Leaders as Facilitators – Leading deep job-embedded professional learning is a new experience for many teacher leaders, and requires nimble facilitation skills. I use Hangouts to lead collaborative learning among facilitators, provide one-on-one coaching, and virtually visit meetings the facilitator leads to provide feedback and support.
  1. Support Teacher Teams – To follow up on my interactive workshops on High-Impact Literacy and ELD, I meet virtually with teacher teams during their job-embedded planning time to help them apply learning to lesson planning. Using hangouts in tandem with a shared Google document, we discuss and plan together in real time even though we are hundreds of miles away.
  1. Collaborate with Multiple Stakeholders to Plan Professional Learning– Aligning professional learning to district priorities, contexts and climates matters. I customize my consulting support to make sure every second of my time with teachers is relevant to the unique context of each client district and school.  Phone is still a great technology for this process, yet Hangouts is more personal and allows us to bring up to ten stakeholders from different locations into the conversation.
  1. Collaborate with Job-Alike Colleagues – In addition to using Hangouts to enhance services I provide to schools, I use Hangouts for my own professional learning. I meet regularly with other leaders, authors, consultants to share ideas and collaborate in solving challenges together to innovate new possibilities for students and schools.

Virtual meetings via Hangouts may feel a little awkward at first, but through practice you realize the tremendous advantage of being able to connect and collaborate internationally without travel costs, and in the comfort of your own home.


How do you use video conferencing to work in education?

Which platform (Google Hangouts, Skype, Facetime, etc.) do you prefer? Why?

Written by

Tonya Ward Singer is an author, keynote speaker and consultant with a deep commitment to ensuring all students in culturally, racially and linguistically diverse schools access high-quality education. She specializes in high-impact literacy, ELL achievement, 21st century learning, and leading effective job-embedded professional learning at scale.

Tonya’s bestselling book Opening Doors to Equity: A Practical Guide to Observation-Based Professional Learning helps educators lead observation inquiry, a professional learning design inspired by Japanese lesson study and tailored to the unique context of teaching for equity and innovation in U.S. schools.

Tonya has taught at multiple levels as a classroom teacher, reading specialist and ELL specialist in the U.S. and abroad. She designs curricula and leads professional learning to help educators elevate student literacy, language and life-long learning for 21st century success.

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