I hdiscussion imageave an addiction.  I can’t help it.  I sneak a little bit at breaks, lunch time, and several times each evening.  It didn’t start out this way.  When I was first introduced to it, I didn’t want it.  In fact, I dug in my heels and said I wasn’t going to use it.  January came along, and I found myself sneaking quick fixes, just a little here and there.  Then I needed more.  I can’t stop myself…I can’t get enough of Google Plus.

What is it I like so much about G+?  I think it’s the discussion.  I enjoy reading people’s comments; it’s a way of “seeing” into their minds.  It’s interesting to see what others think.  But my addiction has also led to disappointment.

As part of OLTD 504, we are participating in a “500” activity, where different tasks are assigned points.  I have earned most of my points via G+ posts and comments.  I eagerly log into G+ hoping to find that someone has replied to one of my posts (not including my blog post) only to find that my posts are now buried in the avalanche of new offerings.  I have to admit that at the beginning of 504, I posted whatever I thought was possibly connected to our topic simply in order to earn points.  I am not motivated by badges or points, but new posts to G+ earned me a whopping 25 points, and I was in a panic about reaching my 500 before the end of the course.  My disappointment is in the limited number of comments or replies to students posts compared to the number of posts in G+.  G+ has (to me) taken on the appearance of Pinterest or at least a very one-sided conversation.  I understand that not everything is comment worthy, and I perhaps need to work harder to write posts that encourage replies.  William Chamberlain wrote an interesting blog about student comments (Student Commenting: A Letter to Students), where he says:

 

“Comments are hard won…They should be coveted like a really soft blanket or a dog that is potty trained.  When a person cares enough to write a good comment, you have received a very special gift.”

 

If I were to use an activity like the “500”, I need to carefully consider my outcomes.  Is the avalanche of new and exciting information my target, or is it meaningful discourse among my students?  I value both, but in my courses I focus greatly on helping students learn to communicate with each other, sharing ideas, forming study groups and supporting each other.  Commenting on each others posts online would certainly fit with this philosophy.  To achieve that goal, I would place a higher point value on the commenting as opposed to the original post.  I know for me that it takes me far longer to craft a well thought out comment that tries to encourage continued discourse, than to quickly post a link to an article.

Perhaps I am missing the point of Google Plus.  I am very new to the tool, and may not completely grasp its intended purpose.   As I consider how I would use LMS and non-LMS tools in my course delivery, I am particularly interested in how to encourage my students to participate in meaningful discourse.  Maybe G+ is not the right tool.  I look forward to exploring other non-LMS tools over the next few weeks to see if there is a better option.