Teacher Lee Briggs on technology in today's classroom. Brought to you by Weekly Reader.

Hands On With Google+

Social networking has been all the rage the last few years. However, like so many things with the Internet, social media has started out as a tremendous waste of time and then over time seems to have become a mainstream waste of time and finally a tool of modern life as we know it.

The problem with social networking is that we have professional lives and a private lives. Facebook is a fantastic tool for sharing jokes with my college buddies, but would I want my boss to see them? Facebook has recently introduced a way to create ‘lists’ of people that you want to share things with, but they were always hard to manage, and Facebook as a company has never been very enthusiastic about keeping their user’s data private and separate from their professional lives. The answer to this was to maintain two accounts, a Facebook account for your friends and, for the adventurous, family; and another account/service for your professional networking, in my case, LinkedIn. Maintaining two different accounts is time consuming, and what happens when the two overlap?

After some initial missteps, Google has waded into the social networking scene with Google+. Google+ looks a lot like Facebook. Except that all the Google services that we use everyday such as Google Documents, Picasa (now Google photos) and Blogger (now Google Blogs) are all incorporated into Google+. The primary difference with Facebook, however, is the idea of “social circles.” In Google+ you do not “friend” someone, instead Google acknowledges the existence of family, friends, co-workers, acquaintances, and any other group you wish to create. All of your content is shared only with these easy-to-manage groups. For example, my latest embarrassing, geeky rant on the last episode of Doctor Who will never be shared with my colleges at work, just as the latest draft of our district’s technology policy will never been seen by my college roommate. And all of this will be hidden from the parents in my school, who will only see my latest spelling lists and missing work lists.

All of these “Circles” are easy to manage, and Google has gone out of its way to make sure that privacy (something that has dogged Facebook from the get-go) has been made a priority. Will there be mistakes made? Sure, Google makes it clear that Google+ is in ‘testing’ until the kinks get hammered out. What is exciting is that this new tool has the ability to connect all of the stray ‘cloud’ computing services out there to the people that need them.

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