Why You Should Care About Google Plus – Part 1

January 24, 2013 in cybersalonaz, google, The Maricopa Experience, social media, GCC, communities, Gaucho Plus by Coop

This post is the first in a series of posts about Google+ (G+). Our college is making a push to use G+ as a communication tool, but because it is so complex, many are finding it difficult to wrap their heads around. I agree. It took me a good 2-3 months to completely understand why this is valuable tool and why I should care about it. Now I want to try to convince others, especially my colleagues at GCC, why they should care about Google+ too.

Part 1 covers registering for Google+, which essentially means setting up a profile for an existing Gmail account you already have. It’s super easy. Then I walk through Google+ Communities, which is where our Gaucho Plus initiative stems from. Gaucho Plus is a profile, but it’s also a way of saying a collections of communities. That’s what’s confusing, but I try to explain that in the video. So if you’re curious, and you want to know why you should care about Google+, check it out.

Gaucho Plus Training – You’ll Leave Wanting More

January 23, 2013 in cybersalonaz, google, The Maricopa Experience, social media, GCC, 30in30, Gaucho Plus by Coop

Gaucho Plus training has finally made its presence in the CTLE at GCC. This is a good thing because there are many confused people on campus. I’ve been running an informal poll asking everyone if they know what Gaucho Plus is. So far my tally is about 29 no to 3 yes. Although all three  yeses have not signed up to use it yet. They’re not sure how. So training is needed. If you’re looking for a recommendation, I highly recommend you attend training and get signed up. It will be worth it in the end.

Screen shot 2013-01-23 at 10.05.33 PMI attended the Gaucho Plus training today, and it was pretty good, but there was surprisingly a lot not on the agenda. I think it’s difficult to train people on how to use Gaucho Plus with out really training them on how to use Google Plus or even explaining what G+ is. It’s like training faculty on how to use the Canvas messaging system, without training them how to use Canvas or even explaining what Canvas is. It didn’t really make sense, especially since every question participants asked dealt with Google Plus, but Mark, our awesome technology trainer, made it work.

Mark did a great job of getting everyone signed up for Google+, which was difficult considering every step of the way Google is asking for you to engage with Google+. It prompts you to add friends and create circles. Poor Mark had to keep explaining that this training was not about that. We’re here to learn Gaucho Plus. “Okay, but why do I have a grey head for a picture? How do I fix that?” Ha! Again, not part of the training, but he was nice enough to go off script to show us all how to personalize our profile pictures.

Then back to Gaucho Plus. Next we learned about joining communities, but half the group hadn’t gotten invites to join the community Mark wanted to use, CTLE. Everyone was just a bit confused despite having been sent (maybe/maybe not) invites to various communities. It would be great if everyone got individual invites like I did, but I’m sure that would be a lot of work for one person to invite hundreds of people to 20 different communities. But that would have eliminated our troubles today, and it would make it easier for people join as those communities would actually show up in everyone’s community area (see image). We managed to make it work with the help from Raechel in marketing. I was able to track her down on G+ and ask if she could add the workshop participants to the CTLE community.


So we all got in and got a great explanation for how the communities work. It was fun listening to all the questions. Most people’s concerns are about being spammed or overly notified, but Mark explained about the digest email everyone will get. He also showed how the little box that lives in the right corner of both our email and G+ pages provides notifications for when there is new news to view. We all played with that by leaving comments and +1ing posts. We learned that +1 is akin to liking a post on Facebook. Although on the Google+ side it’s also a way to save that post in a special area of G+. It’s like your own personal bookmarking service.

That was it. We got a really good overview of Gaucho Plus and Mark did a great job, but my overall impression was that most faculty aren’t going to go through the trouble just for Gaucho Plus. Once they learn all that Google Plus has to offer, they’ll see the value. G+ is a complete package: communicating, video conferencing, sharing, connecting, and much more. Gaucho Plus is only a small piece of that, an important piece, but I think we need a bit more to sell this concept. Luckily G+ has a bit more, and I’m going to make it a goal to sell it.

What Do Students Learn by Using Social Bookmarking Site Diigo?

January 22, 2013 in cybersalonaz, Diigo, research, The Maricopa Experience, Teaching, social media, GCC, ENG102, 30in30, assignment by Coop

Initially students don’t care too much for Diigo when I introduce it in an assignment in Week 2 of the semester. They’re still trying to get used to all the other new technology in the online course, and Diigo is almost the stone that breaks the camel’s back. But not quite. They warm up to it as the course moves on. I’ve questioned whether having students use yet another technology tool is too much for them to deal with, but the advantages of what they learn and experience by using it out weighs any reservations I may have had.

So, what exactly are the advantages of having students use this social bookmarking tool? First, they are in the exploratory phase of their research projects. They’re still trying to figure out what good topics are, so in order to not have them wondering alone in this process, I have them sharing ideas. Diigo allows for students to share bookmarks with each other in a group area. All of the sites saved in the group show up for all to see. Screen shot 2013-01-22 at 10.59.01 PM

As shown in the image above, I teach students about taxonomy. Taxonomy is a way to group things together using tags. It makes it easier for students to find common topics within the group posts. Students are supposed to use the class theme tag: “personal+freedoms” along with 5 of their own tags based on the subject of the site bookmarked. Diigo then creates a tag list (right below) for the group so students can look at the most popular topics that emerge during the search process. Rights, laws, health and the constitution are all popular with students.

Screen shot 2013-01-22 at 10.48.19 PMStudents also practice their summarization skills, as they are to write 2-3 sentence summaries for each website they save. This way other students looking at the list will see a brief summary before clicking through to the link. If a student likes the saved site, he/she can “Like” it or they can comment on the saved bookmark. Many impromptu discussions come from this.

The Diigo group becomes another place for students to discuss topics with built in discussion forums. Diigo gives you the option to post a bookmark or a topic. The topic is set up just like a discussion forum. You can set up one with a specific question you want for students to discuss. These discussion “topics” are not threaded however.

Of course students figure out quickly that Diigo is a good place to store some of their online research so it’s easily accessible, but I think the greatest skill students learn by doing this assignment is that they can continue to help each other out during the research process. I’ve seen students continue to share different websites in the Diigo group because they know what other students are interested in and this is a place where those interested will see them.

You can read more about the Diigo assignment here: Social Bookmarking in the Freshman Composition Research Class.

Social Bookmarking in the Freshman Composition Research Class

January 22, 2013 in cybersalonaz, Diigo, research, The Maricopa Experience, Teaching, social media, GCC, ENG102, 30in30, assignments by Coop

I can still remember when Delicious was all the rage. Remember when you had to remember where all the periods went – del.icio.us. I’m not sure I got it right, but those were the days. Then Delicious got bought by Yahoo! and was shelved. Then Yahoo! sold it to the current owners who have, to their credit, tried to regain the hold on the social bookmarking space. But that is all for not, as Diigo took the opportunity to step in when Delicious struggled and created a more education centric service that still thrives today.

I’ve used Diigo in my Freshman Composition ENG102 courses now for about 5-6 years. It’s a research class, so I like to get students started in the research process with something easy – Googling and sharing what they find with each other. I set up the assignment to get students to explore the course theme: personal freedoms to help narrow the focus of their individual research topics. I’ve posted the meat of the assignment below.

Setting Up & Using Diigo

We will use Diigo throughout the semester to keep track of the websites we find during the research process. When you save a webpage, it’s called bookmarking. Diigo is a social bookmarking site. It’s social because it allows for all of us to share our bookmarks with each other. It’s like a big researching party!

Watch this screencast: Setting Up & Using Diigo to learn how to set-up and use Diigo.

Assignment Steps


  • Read the online handbook chapter and watch the lesson video above. Also read the information about Diigo, watch the Diigo videos and register for an account.
  • Join the ENG102 Diigo group.


  • Start with Google. Open a browser and type: http://www.google.com
  • Type in different search terms relating to our discussion on personal freedoms. Remember the sky is the limit. We are only exploring, so try many different search terms.
  • Use the tips you learned in the Searching the Internet video.


  • Using the Diigo site, bookmark 10 websites about personal freedoms that you find interesting. Choose a variety of topics that fall under personal freedoms.
  • Give each site you save a Title or edit the current title to make it clear (1 point each).
  • Tag the sites with terms that relate to the site, including the tag: personal+freedoms (don’t forget the plus sign +) You need at least 3 tags for each bookmarked website (1 point each).
  • Write a short summary of the website in the Comment box, so that others will have a good idea what the site offers before clicking the links. Summaries should be 2-3 sentences (1 point each).


  • To submit your 10 links for grading, all you have to do is make sure you are a member of the ENG102 Diigo Group. I decided not to send invites. Just join the group below after you set up your account and I’ll approve you.
  • ENG102 Diigo Group <– Click to Join

Example Assn #2

This is a screen capture of a student’s Diigo page. Make sure you have 10 entries that look like this.Diigo Example

Read more about Diigo: What Do Students Learn by Using Social Bookmarking Site Diigo?

Is Anyone Else Confused by Google+ Gaucho Plus at GCC

January 15, 2013 in cybersalonaz, google, social media, 6 Hours Accountability, 30in30 by Coop

gauchoplusConfused may not be the appropriate word, but I’m still trying to figure out . It’s strange. I’m following with my personal Gmail account on G+, but I get a digest of posts to my work Gmail account which doesn’t have G+ turned on. When I click the links in the digest, I get to Groups with no group because it’s my personal Gmail and not work. So it seems like it’s really just a Google Group and not G+ at all.

In addition, I hate digests in email. I have to deal with this with my Google Reader RSS feeds. The G+ digest only gives you a headline of the post and not the whole post, so I have to click through, which by the time I actually get to the news, I’m over it. I click the headline (1 click) and it scoots me down the page in the email where I get one sentence that says “So in So shared a post with you” and a More link. I click the More link (2nd click), and the post opens in a Google Groups window, but only after I go through the trouble of switching from personal Gmail Groups to work Gmail Groups. But that’s my problem for having a personal account. At the end of the post in Groups there is a pretty View Post button, so finally I’m going to get to G+, which is what I thought the point was.

So I click the button (3rd click), and I get a choice this time. I get to choose which account I want to use: personal Gmail or work Gmail. Okay. I can handle this. At least it’s acknowledging that I have two accounts and wants to work with me. I choose personal (4th click), and I get an error message. Rats! Click back (I won’t count that click) and choose work Gmail this time (5th click). I get the same error message. Double Rats! By this time I’m over it. I know how to get to G+ to read posts. What the heck is the digest for? It’s obviously not working for me. I need to figure out how to turn that off. My guess is it’s not possible.

I’m sure there will people who will say, well if it’s work, why are using your personal Gmail account. That’s a good point. I actually don’t use my personal Gmail email for work; however, we all know that Gmail is more than email. For years I’ve been using Google Docs and Google Voice for work. And I’ve established a very good work pattern with how it all works together. Docs for sharing and collaborating with my colleagues and Voice for calls and texts with students. It has been a perfect blend for more than 5 years now. But now work Gmail is butting in on my synergistic work flow. Over a year ago I set up my personal G+ account and have happily circled and connected to over 200 people in 11 circles, and even more in the various Communities I’ve joined recently, including all the GCC Communities. I’m not willing to call a do over for Maricopa. So personal Gmail (except for email) IS work, and at this point I’m sticking with it. There will be no second Alisa Cooper on G+ unless it’s another person all together.

I can only handle so much social media. I already have multiple Twitter (personal + classes), Facebook, Diigo, and G+. I do my part for spreading knowledge across the globe. It’s too much work to consider just one more, and if I have to choose, I’d rather continue to be open to connect with the world instead of just Maricopa.

Google+ Communities – Public or Private for the Classroom?

January 5, 2013 in cybersalonaz, google, technology, social media, 30in30, communities by Coop

g+When Google first opened up the Google+ Communities option, I thought it was a great idea, especially for classes. But then I started thinking about how that would work with a class, and now I’m not so sure it will work for my purposes. Don’t get me wrong. Google+ Communities are a great addition to the social network. It’s just not going to work with how I want to use Google+.

I posted yesterday about how I’ve used it, but essentially I wanted it to be a place for my students to blog about what they are reading, writing and researching. The topic, food waste/sustainability is a hot topic right now, and the whole purpose of having students study this topic is to make more people aware of the problems we have. So why not get students blogging and sharing information about this issue and problem. However, because it is a class, I want to give students the option to keep their work private if they choose. Moving my current set up to a Google+ Community may not allow me to do both.

Let’s start with a bit of information on how Communities work. When you set up a community, you must decide if you’d like it to be public (i.e.anyone can find, join and post) or private (i.e. only invited members can join and see what is shared). In a “private” Community you are not able to tag or mention someone (e.g. + or @) that is not in your Community. So if I want to give students the option to post privately (to class only) or publicly (which I highly encourage), I can’t use a Community. Do you see why? It’s one or the other. Whereas in G+ using just circles, students have a choice. They can share a post by tagging others not in the class or just posting to Public along with posting to the class circle.

You might think that students could still choose to post something to a private Community and Publicly at the same time, but no can do. Here’s the message that pops up.

Screen shot 2013-01-05 at 6.50.51 PM

For now, I think I’ll just have to stick with circles. I like the idea of communities, and I may find a use for one later. I also want to go back and take a second look at pages. I think they still have G+ pages. Might be another 30in30 post coming soon if they do.


Playing with Google+ in my Hybrid Class

January 4, 2013 in cybersalonaz, google, technology, Teaching, social media, blogging, ENG102, 30in30, learning community, Blended Learning by Coop

gplusLast year I taught two semesters in a hybrid learning community with my colleague and friend Cindy Ortega. We met one day a week for 2 1/2 hours. The other 2 1/2 hours was spent online. I taught ENG102 Freshman Composition and she taught CRE101 Critical Reading. Both classes when you look at the competencies are very similar, focusing on critical reading, writing and thinking. And of course we both teach research because we have to have something to read, write and think about. Our theme for the course was Food Waste and Sustainability, so we had students read the book American Wasteland and watch several movies about sustainability. This semester we watch Lester Brown’s Plan B movie and in the fall we watched No Impact Man. All of our content revolved around the ideas from the book and movie.

So with such an important topic, we thought it would be great to encourage students to be transparent in their work in the course, as what they were discussing and writing about would be relevant to all. With that in mind, I suggested we use Google+ as a blogging platform for students not just share their journals posts with us, but with the world. We did it for two semesters and students loved it. I’ll try to explain how it all worked out.

First, we have Google Apps for Education, but we didn’t have G+ turned on for students. Because of this students had to use a personal Gmail account to participate, which really can be confusing for students to have more than one Gmail account. We’d get students in class that would be logged into one account and then be locked out of an activity that was shared to the other Gmail account. An example of this is when a student logged into her personal Gmail to post her journal for the class and then went into Canvas to participate in a shared document assignment that was shared to her school Gmail account, she was denied access to the document. She didn’t realize she needed to switch accounts. This happened often, but after awhile they all figured it out.

On the first day of class we got all the students signed up for their Google accounts and opened up their G+ profiles. Then they all were instructed to add me (the instructor) to a circle – any circle. It didn’t matter what circle. I provided a link for them to click to take them directly to my G+ profile. Once they added me to a circle, they showed up in my G+ account as someone who added me to a circle. I then added them all into a circle named after the class: ENG102/CRE101. Once I had everyone in the circle, I shared the circle with the class and instructed them to save the circle with the same circle name. We were all connected now.

Throughout the semester students were given journal assignments to post in G+. Most were text posts, but some involved creating posters or videos or photos. The posts were to be shared with the class circle, thus making it private to only the class. However, we encouraged students to share with others and I often re-shared some really good posts. It wasn’t part of the grade, but students often commented on each others’ posts. But what really surprised me was students started using G+ to ask questions, and before I even realized the questions were there, other students started to answer.

We often work in groups, so students used G+ to communicate with group members outside of class. I held a few office hour sessions on G+ using Google Hangouts. And Cindy and I started using Hangouts for our weekly class planning sessions even though most of the time we were one hallway away.

Overall I think the G+ project was a good experience, and I look forward to expanding the use of it. This semester, if our class makes, I plan to do more discussions in G+ and more re-sharing of content from others outside of the course. I could maybe have students search to find other like minded individuals to learn from and share with. It could be fun.

Follow Up Questions from Cloud Based Technology Webinar

February 27, 2012 in cybersalonaz, web2.0, The Maricopa Experience, social media, cloud based technology, gosoapbox, webinar by Coop

Today I did a webinar for Academic Impressions: Using Cloud-Based Technology for Learning and Engagement. The webinar lasted an hour and forty-five minutes, which means I had to talk for that long. This isn’t generally a problem for me if I’m talking about and sharing about what I love to do: teaching and learning with technology, so the time flew by. I was really surprised that I was able to keep to my planned timeline. I got everything in but a few questions at the end, so I’m hear to address them now.

One of the tools I used in the presentation to help give every participant a voice was GoSoapBox. I blogged about it in my last post about what I’d do with a $300 grant. I was able to address the remaining questions in there, since participants had posted them in the webinar and in GoSoapBox. Below is a list of a few questions I answered for participants.

I had a great time talking about cloud based technologies, and I really hope it was helpful for others. And I hope they get out there and give it a try. Remember to start small and play around with it before you make it a major assignment for a course.


Concise and collaborative

November 2, 2011 in writing, social media, internet filters by Liza

For a project in my qualitative data analysis class, I interviewed two colleagues that I respect beyond words (and, coincidentally, who both blog).  I asked how writing changes as technology advances.  Both gave different responses in some areas, but both agreed that writing in the high school classroom has become more concise and collaborative.

I was reminded of these interviews today when the New York Times tweeted about using social media to teach concise writing.  The article contains great links to activities to use while teaching writing including the six word story, the twaiku (a twitter haiku), and literary response activities using Twitter or Facebook.   As I read the article, my mind raced with ideas about how I might incorporate some of these social-media-based activities in my classes.  And then I remembered the internet filter.

See, last year, after two years of suggestions by most tech savvy colleague, I embarked on a journey of technology immersion in my classroom.  Devon had explained to me numerous times how to use blogs with my students, how to use Google docs for students to collaborate on writing, and about a million other ideas, but I never fancied myself tech savvy enough to implement such lessons.  When I wrote a paper about technology as culturally relevant pedagogy, I argued that secondary teachers are hesitant to try different technologies with students because they are used to possessing the most knowledge in the room where content is concerned.  With technology, teachers know they won't know the most--the students will.  It's a control issue, and so last year I let go, knowing that I would likely know the least about the technology I would be using.

The good news is, I survived.  The bad news is that my school, as with many other public schools, has internet filters that block content.  Unable to score the student authored blogs during my prep, I spent countless hours at home reading what amounted to their entire research process, from proposal through final draft, from my couch.  My school's filter blocked all blogs.  So, today, when I saw the tweet about using social media (another area that is a category for filter blocks) to teach students how to collaborate and write concisely, I was at the same time excited at the idea and sad that I could not likely access the technologies in my classroom.

I'm not going to question how and why, but today I was able to access Twitter for the New York Times link, Facebook to reread part of the paper I referenced, and, *gasp* Blogger.  I will count the time from my prep hour used to blog as payback for last year's hours of grading from home.  I'm also going back to the article to click on a few of the links for the lessons, now that I see they may be possible in my classroom.
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