Here's the concept behind Hangouts...While on your G+ home screen you can "Start a Hangout." A Hangout is, essentially, a video chat room for up 10 people. When starting your hangout you can choose your different circles of friends to hangout with. It then opens the room and allows anyone from your selected circles to join in the hangout, up to 10 people at once. As long a there are 2 people in the hangout, it will remain open. In other words it isn't hosted or owned by the creator, which allows the conversation to move and evolve in a real fashion and less constrained by the tool. Although video chatting isn't new, this concept of a hangout is a giant leap forward.
Seeing as how my technology world revolves around education, Hangouts has blown my mind wide open with concepts, lessons, and activities that can been done with Hangouts. Here are a few:
Q&A/Tutoring - Imagine this...the teacher opens a hangout specifically dedicated for Q&A or tutoring. Students come and go listening to questions/answers, and asking questions of their own.
Extended Discussion - After a classroom discussion, a student opens a hangout to further explore the topic. They bounce ideas off other students or teachers, or perhaps other people that are knowledgeable about that topic.
Scheduled discussions - Groups could schedule hangouts to hold a discussion or debate about their course material. Authorities on the subject matter could be invited to add extra value to the discussion.
Global Classroom discussions - Classrooms from across the the globe could hangout together and discuss subject matter, bringing in various points of view from the varying cultures and backgrounds.
Online classes - Group video chat within a social network is perfect for online learning. It is a way to still get the personal interaction without having to physically meet. On top of all that, the 10 person limit is a great size for a learning environment.
Presentation collaboration - Students giving a presentation together can meet when it is convenient for each member. They can talk face to face and work together to grow and develop their ideas and presentation strategies. While chatting they could simultaneously use Google docs or any other collaboration tool to create and polish their presentation materials.
Guest Speakers - Guest Speakers could speak to multiple classrooms or schools simultaneously. It's a superb use of time and resources. I would love to see people dedicating an hour or so a few times a year, for hanging out in classrooms.
Author Visits - Librarians could start following all the authors that are pertinent to their students. Authors could post times that they will start a hangout and ask for students to submit questions. The Author could get to talk to many schools at once, which could add to the overall content of the the conversation with the Author.
The future of Google+ is anything but certain. And it's use in education is even less so. The one thing that is certain is that if you give a tool like this to talented teachers, they will put it to use and educational experiences will run rampant.
These ideas are, by no means, the only ways or even the best ways to use Hangouts. If you have some other thoughts or idea please leave a comment or follow me on Google+.