Hangouts is a free, web-based collaboration- and communication tool, developed by Google. Hangouts allows for many simultaneous users to communicate and collaborate in a virtual space, and the tool is integrated with several of Google's other services, including YouTube and Google Drive. The tool is particularly suitable for use in the monologic and the polyphonic form of teaching.
In the monologic form of teaching, Google Hangouts can be used to instruct students in the use of specific digital tools. When the teacher shares her screen with a group of students, she can go through through specific functions in a program, which students should learn how to use. She can also review a text with students, who will have the opportunity to ask questions continuously, either in chat or using the built-in videochat. A Hangout can, by activating ‘Hangouts on Air’ when creating the Hangout, be recorded and posted on YouTube. In this way it will be possible for students, who could not participate in the teacher's lecture, to view it at a different time.
Within the polyphonic form of teaching Google Hangouts can be used as a collaboration room for groups of students or an entire class. It is possible to watch a video on YouTube together while doing a common analysis of it in the chat, and it is possible to collaborate in Google Docs, while communicating through video chat.
In Google Hangouts it is also possible to add a number of additional plugins that could further support collaboration. For example, there is a plugin for Google Art Project. By adding this plugin, one can let students search a large collection of artworks from many different museums around the world, and let students collaborate on analyzing selected artworks within Google Hangouts.
Google Hangouts is easy to use, and it only requires, that you have a Google account. If you don't already have an account, it can be created for free here.