Google Hangouts at Denison University


Google Hangouts Logo

If you are part of the Independent School Educators listserv, you may have seen a conversation recently regarding the number of schools moving away from FirstClass in favor of Gmail and Google Apps for Education in the K-12 independent school world.

The particulars of that transition are not the focus of today’s post; rather, I’d like to highlight how one feature of GAE, once enabled, has true potential to meet the mobile learner’s present and future needs in virtual spaces.

Google Hangouts, the subject of an earlier post here at, is being deployed in innovative ways K-12 and beyond, as evidenced by German Professor Dr. Gabriele Dillmann’s recent presentation at the annual convention of the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages. 


Denison University logo

Dr. Dillmann’s approach is truly maximizing the potential of virtual spaces and harnessing the power of social media and the collective to engage and activate learning.  

Rather than having the teacher present at each Hangout session, Dr. Dillmann – working in collaboration with Denison Instructional Technology Specialists (particularly Cheryl Johnson)  – has developed a step-by-step guide for her students to take charge of their own peer-peer Hangouts.

Student leaders organize and initiate Hangout sessions following the guidelines supplied by their professor. The Hangout session leader records the session, and then posts the video to YouTube, subsequently sharing the YouTube link with their teacher (see this video for more specifics on the process). This in turn becomes a living, breathing artifact of learning that can be used as a teaching tool in a spiraled-style curriculum where students become teachers and true partners in the teaching and learning process.

Students are assessed according to a highly sophisticated rubric incorporating the following evaluation criteria: 

  • Linguistic Accuracy
  • Communicative Effectiveness (body language, facial expressions, tone of voice, affective gestures, etc)
  • Fluency and Circumlocution
  • Pronunciation
  • Participation as a Learning Community Member (essentially, to what extent did each Hangout participants’ contributions advance the conversation?)
  • Dialogue Etiquette (interactions demonstating respect, sensitivity, interest, etc)
  • Group and Leadership Competencies (fulfilling individual responsibilities with care and dedication).

The unequivocal message that this rubric sends to Dr. Dillmann’s students is that they are being evaluated holistically and not solely on the basis of their German utterances. They are being prepared for a world in which their success will be determined not only by a sophisticated technology and (one can hope!) linguistic skill set, but also by the degree to which they have developed their own intercultural awareness as well as their style of delivery in virtual and group interview environments. 

Please feel free to contact me for further details on this exciting development. 


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