When Google announced the creation of the community feature on Google+, I knew it would be a special space that would allow for widespread connection across folks in specific domains. Facebook was too closed in their groups approach. Although Twitter's hashtags create a great feed for specific domain knowledge and communications, the interactions were too thin in terms sharing multimedia, stories and creating a community around one particular idea. Enter Google+ Communities. More than a year old, Google+ Communities was announced in Dec 2012. I sat feverishly pinned to a browser tapping F5 waiting for the rollout to hit my account. When available, I created the EdTech Community. Pulling from the language and logo I developed for a denied EdTech unconference proposal the community was minted with fresh marketing and a pointed mission. Within the first hour, Andrew Hill and I watched the community grow to over 300 member reaching close to 1,000 by the morning. The following month there were close to 3,000 members. Fast forward a year, the community boasts close to 16,000 followers.
Working closely with Todd Hurst, a fellow PhD student, we encouraged new followers to share their stories as educators, technologists, and enthusiasts about how technology can positively impact education. The initial layout allowed for the categorization of posts, barring the member tagged the appropriate pre-selected subject. The platform has afforded us the opportunity to interview amazing educators and thought leaders via Google+ Hangouts. Our first hangout was with Nick Provenzano, a high school english teacher and ISTE 2013 Outstanding Teacher of the Year, who is most known for his work with Evernote in the classroom. This was followed by an interview with John Nash, the Director of the Design Lab for Education at the University of Kentucky. We followed with a great conversation with Vincent Cho, a Professor at Boston College in the Department of Education Leadership and Higher Education.
We recently presented at UCEA about how this community could act as a spring board and resource for education technology leaders. The presentation was met with positive response, as there is no definitive online space for education leaders looking to discuss the integration of technology in education. Although the community does not have the high level of interaction that we seek at a human, or academic level, we feel confident that the members are learning, sharing and interacting towards the progress of technology in education. As we analyze and review the interactions that take place, we are limited by the closed API for Google+ Communities, which hinders our ability to systematically make changes based on member behavior and postings. If we could measure the interaction and content in which members share, we could better gauge the level of interaction and shape the conversation beyond what many consider to be a 'link dumpster'. As we continue down the path of Education Leadership in Technology we will always find ways to curate ideas, innovations and technologies to promote education. Google+ Communities stands a chance to make a significant dent in organizing ideas, thoughts and people from across the globe around one idea. With significant user interaction modifications and moderator controls, the communities can act as a space where users can adequately and efficiently share ideas, links and ping the community for feedback just as they would when entering a room. For now, we are limited by the structural make-up and organizational layout of Communities. Without significant modifications, we will continue to see hollow-posts, interaction, self promotion and little engagement.