Google is spot on when it touts that technology can give educators more ways to bring hands-on learning to their students. The company’s suite of communication and collaboration tools is part of a growing number of school district technology initiatives.
Some of those same school districts have been asking us how Google Hangouts fits into our plans to help keep students safe. In response, this past fall we started incorporating Hangouts Chat as part of Gaggle Safety Management for a few school districts and have now made it available to everyone.
It’s important to point out that also last year, Google separated Hangouts into two parts. Meet is the company’s video meeting platform while Chat gets billed as a communication app that takes direct messaging to Hangouts. Part of G Suite for Education’s core services, Hangouts for Chat can be turned on as part of your Safety Management Gmail services.
Understandably, law enforcement has made it a point to tell us that they’ve seen activity on Hangouts quickly go the wrong direction and have arrested and sent to prison individuals preying on students. These same law enforcement officials urge districts to monitor their students’ use of Hangouts similar to other forms of school-provided communication tools.
Students can use Google Hangouts as a social platform to communicate with different individuals often because it’s easy to hide an identity similar to popular anonymous messaging apps and is easily accessible on mobile devices. One example involved a student who liked cartoon characters. Within a Hangout, the student started to get chats from a person who used a likable character as a profile photo and then began to exchange pornography.
Law enforcement is quick to point out that Hangouts, like other communication and collaboration tools, can be beneficial for student learning. Case in point is this civics class that did a Google Hangout with State Representative Mike Gallagher from Wisconsin. Students were able to ask some questions about what it's like to be a representative as well as questions on policy. Watch the Hangouts Meet recording from YouTube below.