Flip Your Class with Google Hangouts

Keith Hamon
Keith Hamon teaches college writing and literature in West Palm Beach, Florida. Keith is keenly interested in connectivism and rhizomatic education, and exploring the rhizome through MOOCs.

Most teachers interested in flipped classrooms know that online videos can do much of the work in flipping a class: moving lectures, demonstrations, and other presentations out of the classroom and onto the Net where students can view them, again and again. This meets the requirements for a flipped class: deliver remotely, practice locally.

Fortunately, there are a wide range of tools for producing online videos, many of which are accessible to even a casual user: tools such as PowerPoint or Keynote presentation apps, iMovie or MovieMaker video apps, or Camtasia and Jing desktop capture apps. With any of these tools, a YouTube or Vimeo account, and a little effort, a teacher can create and deliver quite acceptable online presentations that move content delivery out of the classroom and onto the Net, where it belongs. However, most of these programs cost money. If you have a Google account, then you can use Google’s Hangouts On Air to create your presentations and host them on Youtube, all for free.

Flip Your Class with Google Hangouts

As with most Google tools, the process is fairly simple:

  • Create your lecture
  • Start your Hangouts On Air broadcast
  • Record your presentation
  • Share the link to the saved broadcast with your students

 

Let’s add some details:

First, keep in mind that you must have a Google Plus account for all of this to work. Also, you must have access to a modern computer with a modern web browser, a quick Internet connection, and an external microphone and headphone. For most people, a cell phone headset with an earbud and an inline mic will work just fine.

 

Create your lecture

The first step is to create your presentation or lecture in your favorite lecture tool. For many, that might be PowerPoint. I most often use Google Docs (Drive), especially Presentation, or Prezi. As you will come to see, most any tool will work, but for your first time, use what you already know. Whatever tool you use, you must be able to display it and easily navigate through it in a window on your desktop as you will be sharing it as you record your online presentation. Remember to have your presentation open and ready before you start your Hangout On Air.

I’ve gotten fairly competent at talking and navigating through my visual presentations while also managing the Hangout On Air, but when I first started, I found it most helpful to practice my lecture a time or two before going live. And remember: if the presentation does not turn out as you wish, you can always delete it and start over. So relax.

 

Start your Hangouts On Air

In Google Plus, move your mouse over the Home icon on the top left to reveal the G+ tray, and select Hangouts On Air.

Hangouts On Air

A Hangout On Air page opens, listing lots of upcoming Hangouts On Air. You may need to scroll down through the ads to find the blue Start a Hangout On Air button.

Start a Hangout On Air button

Click the button, and Google will ask you to name the Hangout and to invite specific people or Google+ circles to join you. You must give the Hangout a name, but you do not have to invite people to join the Hangout. I suggest that you do not invite participants until you are very comfortable making a Hangout lecture. The first time that you create a Hangout On Air, Google will also ask you to agree to the Terms of Service and to link your YouTube account. When you’ve named your Hangout, click the green Start Hangout On Air button.

Setup your Hangout On Air

Google will then display the Hangouts On Air page. Note that you are still Off Air. Your broadcast will not begin until you click the big red START BROADCAST button at the top of the page.

Starting to Broadcast

Note also the list of apps along the left side of the screen. You will use the Screenshare app to display your presentation in the Hangout On Air. If you do not have the Screenshare app, then click the View more apps button to add it to your Hangout On Air. The other apps also extend the capabilities of Hangout On Air, but for now, we will use only the Screenshare app. Before you click the START BROADCAST button, make sure that your presentation is open in another window, ready to show.

When you are ready to start, click the big red START BROADCAST button, and Google will give you one last chance to back out with a notice that tells you that you are broadcasting publicly. If you are really ready, then click OK. After a countdown (check your hair), you will start broadcasting on your Google Plus page and your YouTube channel.

Broadcasting Publicly

 

Record your presentation

When you first begin to broadcast, your image is front and center, as shown above. Make your introductory statements, and as you are talking, be mindful to look at your camera. That way, when your students view the presentation, they will think you are talking to them and not to your desk.

When you are ready to start your PowerPoint or Prezi, click the Screenshare button to select a window to show in the hangout. Select the thumbnail of your open presentation, and click Start Screenshare. Google will display the window with your presentation, ready for you to cycle through it.

Screenshare for Hangouts

Presentation purists will likely find this transition from your face to the presentation somewhat clunky, but I find that my students don’t mind seeing the transition. It is no worse than what they see in their classes, and it’s done in under 10 seconds. I usually talk through the transition, so they don’t notice.

With your presentation displayed, talk your way through it. Unfortunately, if you are using a presentation tool such as PowerPoint, you cannot use full screen, as it stops the screen share. Still, if your presentation window is fully expanded, it works just fine. Again, purists won’t like this, but students don’t seem to care. I’m with the students.

Screen Sharing

When you are done with your presentation, click Screenshare again to return to your image, say good-bye, and stop the broadcast.

 

Share the link to the saved broadcast with your students

When the broadcast is ended, click the Embed button at the top of your screen to copy the links to your new YouTube video.

Share the link to the saved broadcast

Paste or embed the link in your LMS, class wiki, G+ page, or wherever else you list links to instructional resources.

Of course, you may want to review the video yourself before you share it with others. I have embarrassed myself when I was in too much of a hurry, and I don’t recommend it as a sound teaching strategy. To see your video, just paste the link into your browser, and navigate to your YouTube channel.

Reviewing your video

I’ve used many other programs to make online videos, and some of those other programs really are much slicker than Google’s Hangout On Air, but none of them are quite as simple and easy, and as Kahn Academy has demonstrated, students don’t necessarily value slick instructional videos. They want useful instructional videos, and Hangout On Air provides that utility, especially with the wide range of support apps that you can add. I’ll talk about some of those apps in another post.

Tim McDonald of The Huffington Post provides a wonderful introduction to Hangout On Air, and of course, Google has great online Help. Watch Mr. McDonald, and move yourself online.

-Keith Hamon