Reflective Communication with Google Hangouts on Air +

Photo by  Jack Finnigan

Photo by Jack Finnigan


In the years that I worked as a World Languages teacher and teacher trainer, one of the most common challenges was getting any level of student speaking in a non-prompted way and in a fashion where the teacher would be able to evaluate that speaking.

Then I went to the 2015 ACTFL conference and heard how Dr. Kelly Arispe with Boise State University harnesses the free technology of Google Hangouts on Air and to accelerate language proficiency for her students.  But this pairing of technology isn't only applicable in a language classroom. It's a great idea for any educational situation!

Below I describe how to set up the technology.  Whatever the students discuss and analyze, and how that is graded can be adjusted according to the assignment and subject.  The genius idea behind this is that people actually learn very little when someone else corrects them. The learning happens when students self-correct and learn from their own mistakes.  The pairing of Google Hangouts on Air and allows for this self discovery to happen. And all the instructor needs to do it evaluate the reflection process.

The materials necessary for this activity are…

  • A computer or personal device

  • A Google+ account (you and your partner must follow each other)

  • A Youtube account

  • A account (which integrates with Google Drive)

To get started…

First find a partner who you can discuss your lesson with, and exchange phone numbers with that person.  This will come in handy in the case that there are any technical difficulties or complications. Also make sure that you follow each other on Google+.

For the technology to work…

At least one person will need to be on a computer, the other person can be on a tablet or smartphone.  If only one person will be on a computer, that person needs to start the Hangout on Air. If both of you will be on a computer, decide ahead of time who will start the Hangout on Air.

If you are on a tablet or phone, you will first need to install the Google Hangouts app, and sign in with your Google account.

All users will need to verify and create a YouTube account, if you don’t already have one (if this is the case, Google will automatically take you there). You will have to enter your phone number to use a confirmation code.

Now you need to verify your settings on YouTube.  Click on your profile photo, then the gear symbol. Go to “view additional features” and make sure there is a green circle next to where it says “longer videos”.

Then go to and connect your account to your Google Drive by clicking “connect with Google Drive”.

Once this is set up and you decide with your partner on a time to chat, make sure you login to Google Hangouts about 5 minutes ahead of time to make sure you have all of the proper plugins (Google will prompt you with this).

If you are starting the session, visit and sign in, then click “create a hangout on air”.

Name this session “Assignment Name - Your Name & Partner’s Name”.  Make sure the Hangout is set to start “now”. Then erase “Public” for the audience, and type the name of your partner, then click “Share”.

If this is your first time to do this, a window will pop up showing you new apps, just push the arrows to get through them.

Now you will be back at your Google+ profile page.  Click “start”, and a new window will appear. You will have to enter your partner’s name again, then click “invite”.

Hit “Continue”, then check the box saying you agree to the policies, then click “Continue.”  Click through the introduction, then click “Start Broadcast”, then “okay”.

If your partner doesn’t get an invitation to join the broadcast (in the “events” of their “Google+ Page), or in an email, click where is says “links” and copy and paste the URL of the “event page” and send it to them.

If you are joining an already created event, you will have to “Check In”.  Once you and your partner are both talking, the camera will switch to whomever is speaking.

When you are finished, hit “stop broadcast” then the “hang up” symbol.  If prompted, also click “end broadcast”.

Now you need to get the URL for your video on Youtube.   You can get there by clicking on the link on the below window.

And in a separate window, go to  Paste your Youtube URL in the appropriate box on the left, ad load your video.

Then watch your videoed conversation.  Meanwhile, in the box on the right, write reflections on what was learned and what could have gone better.

ed tech, languageBryn Hafemeister1, a