I've been on Google plus ever since it was invite only and I have been marveling about its great features and its versatility. You can use it like twitter, without the 140 character restriction (which is famously considered a boon by many users) and you can use it like Facebook, without ever confusing security settings. It is far more versatile than Skype as video-conferencing and communication tool on top of being web-based and therefore platform independent. And perhaps most important of all, information is not short-lived as it is searchable and possible to filter.
Ever since its beginnings enthusiastic educators haven’t got tired of pointing out its potential in education. And so far I have resisted joining in the chorus. The greatest piece of software is of no use if there aren't any users for it. Actually, the problem has never been the lack of enthusiastic users rather than the lack of a massive user base. Guy Kawasaki put it like this: twitter is great for news, Facebook is great for friends, but Google+ is great for people passionate about a hobby... and consequently learning. While many people described Google+ as “ghost town” it was known as network for nerds among its ardent users.
However, with the recent addition of communities and increasing signs of widespread adoption, it looks like G+ is getting ready for prime time and being used as a tool in education. The majority of students now have a Google plus account. Even though they might not be active users or willing to use Google plus for private purposes, it wouldn't be much more difficult to set up a class community in Google plus now than a Facebook group.
Apart from being simply an alternative to Facebook groups (the teacher might not want to be on Facebook, or the students might prefer not to use Facebook for education) it provides numerous advantages over using other social networks:
- less distraction due to the possibility to filter by circles
- collaborative work on documents due to Google Docs integration
- sharing of all kinds of files types due to Google Drive integration
- group chat and video conferencing due to the integration of Hangouts
- recording of video messages/screencasts/video conferences via Hangouts on Air
- a great feedback tool with Google forms
In recent months I have seen a slow but steady increase in the adoption of Google plus for educational purposes. Among the most impressive ones:
- The Maker Movement organizing MOOCs on Google Plus
- Languages schools offering language classes via Hangouts
- The fast and spontaneous self-organisation of learning communities with the recent addition of communities