Thursday, February 28, 2008

Google Reader and RSS

To me, the beauty of the read/write web, is that it is much easier for most anyone to publish what they know to the internet. Although we will continue to gain information through traditional means, like books, research papers, reputable web sites..., we now have immediate access to articles written by knowledgable people within our fields of research (Although we should address methods to validate this information). These articles could come from newspapers, magazines, journals, blogs or wikis. Many of these sites are set up to send out, in the form of an RSS feed, any new articles as soon as they are posted. We no longer have to go out and check the sites for new information, instead we subscribe to these feeds using an RSS feed reader (See, the terminology is not so difficult to follow). There are several readers out there, but I prefer the Google Reader.

What is Google Reader? Google Reader gathers automatic (RSS) feeds from sites that I have subscribed. New articles or postings are automatically fed to me. Using the reader, I can read as much or as little from the article as you please. I can choose to only read the headline, read the first paragraph or read the entire article. The reader also allows me to "star" items that I deem valuable and/or share these articles with others. I can also keep every article sent to me (forever?) and my reader allows me to easily search them for information I wish to recall. I can also tag the articles which allows for better organization.
For more information about RSS, watch this video from Commoncraft:

Follow this link to set up your Google Reader (Remember to use your existing Google Account). Please check my companion wiki for step by step instructions for creating a Google Reader account as well as directions for subscribing to RSS feeds.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Google has so much to offer

Over the next several posts, I will discuss many of the tools available free through Google. Although Google Gmail is not required to utilize these tools, Gmail will enhance your ability to take advantage of all extensions of the tools. If you are not interested in giving up your current email service, Gmail offers a couple of options. You can forward your Gmail to your current inbox, or make use of your current email with the Gmail account.
Follow this link to set up your Gmail account. If you are sharing this with students, this is a good time to let them know that email addresses are in the form of lastname.firstname are preferred over soccerstar98, etc. Note that our Acceptable Use Policy permits the use of email for educational purposes. Encourage students to keep an email that they use only for school.
Once you have set up your Gmail account. I suggest you set up an iGoogle start page. You can get to it from any computer (and many handheld devices) with Internet access. My homepage includes a view of my Google Calendar, my email, my Google Reader (I address the Google Reader in a separate post), the local weather forecast, quotes of the day, the latest sports scores and blogs about my favorite teams. Add features to your start page by clicking on the Add Stuff link. You can quickly access your start page by clicking the Google icon in the Google Toolbar (and signing in).
This is also a good time to download the Google toolbar at home. I will discuss this feature in yet another post. The Google Toolbar is loaded on all of the computers in our district, and allows quick access to information held within your Google tools.