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Tip of the Week: Google Collections equals GAFE Pinterest

A couple of days ago I had the chance to watch Kori Green and Adam Topliff in action. As board members of the Kansas Council for the Social Studies, certified state standards trainers, and experienced middle school teachers, they know a thing or two thousand about what quality history instruction looks like.

They spent the day here at ESSDACK, tag teaming with a group of secondary folks in a discussion about best practices and the upcoming state assessment. In those sorts of conversations, I always walk out smarter. I get to see what Kori and Adam are doing. I get to sit down with classroom teachers and chat about what they’re doing. It’s basically a smash and grab of all of their best stuff.

And Wednesday was no different. I was able to leave with a couple of new ideas including my new favorite, Google+ Collections. 

Collections rolled out back at the end of May. I looked at it and pushed it to the back burner planning to revie wit later. On Wednesday, Kori moved it back to high heat. And I think you should as well.

Think Pinterest if Google had invented it. I actually like Pinterest. But it’s not always available in schools because of strict filters and to be honest, like many social media sites, it can be unpredictable.

Collections – Pinterest done the Google way – gives you a tool that lets you collect websites, videos, pictures, and other content and share them with others. All in the controlled environment of the Google bubble.

It seems like a great way to group teaching resources around a specific topic – websites and YouTube videos about the Civil War or Google docs and photos that highlight information about the Italian Renaissance. You can create your Collection so you’re the only one who has access, letting you use Collections as a quick storage area.

Or even better, create Collections that you share with other teachers or your students.

The process is pretty simple. Collections live in your Google+ page. So once you’ve logged into either your school Google and personal Google account, head over to Google+. (If you’ve never been to Google+, you can go directly to your page by typing in or clicking the Tic Tac Toe looking matrix in the top right hand corner of any Google website. Then click the Google+ icon.)

google matrix

Once you’re at Google+, click on the Home menu in the upper left-hand corner, select Collections, then click the Create a collection button. Give your Collection a name and set the visibility permission. This is where you can decide who gets to see your collection. You can set it so no one sees it but you. If you’re a GAFE school, you have the ability to limit visibility to just teachers and students in your district. I also like the Custom option – this allows you to limit visibility to your district but also invite specific others outside the district, perfect for wider PLCs or for sharing with another class. But don’t be afraid of the Public option – no one else can mess with your collection except you.

There is a catch. Once you select a visibility, you can’t change it later so choose wisely. Yeah . . . it doesn’t make any sense to me either.

collections 1

Once you’ve noodled through all of that, simply click Create and you’re ready to go. After the Collection page loads, click Customize to select the header image and page accent color.

Creating posts in your Collection is simple.

At the top of the Collection page, you’ll see an Add to This Collection option.

collections 2

Select whatever type of post you want to add. This might Text with instructions, it might a website, an image of a primary source, a quick YouTube video, or even a Poll that provides a chance for students to self assess or measure learning after students walk through an instructional unit.

You can share your collection by copying the URL then emailing, texting, posting on a class website / Google Classroom, or other social media sites.

Need a quick example? Head over to my Historical Thinking Collection.


And if you’re a Google+ user and have added other users or groups with Collections, clicking the Collections button under Home will display those Collections – a great way to access a variety of resources

A couple of other sample Collections? Kori created a Collection during her NEH Reconstruction project this summer. And the Google Cultural Institute has a great Collection of some of their World Wonders.


Give this free tool a try. Be sure to have fun!

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