The first things I do each time I turn on my computer (and several times during the day) are to open my email and then GoogleReader in my web browser. Increasingly, I'm opening GoogleReader first.
After reading posts by Miguel and Paul and reflecting on an inservice I did for Houston schools last week on Personal Learning Networks, I've had the epiphany that I've been neglecting the true unsung hero of Web 2.0 - the RSS feed aggregators. Either GoogleReader or Bloglines has become such a routine part of my online experience that I forget it is still an unused resource for a majority of educators. And one, if not mastered, will make it likely other Web 2.0 resources may well go unused.
First, Common Craft has two great introductions to aggregators: RSS in Plain English and the just released, Google Reader in Plain English. I also have a short guide, "The top 10 things you should know about RSS feed aggregators" here. Those are the basics.
Blog reading was the first, and probably is still the most important, use of an RSS aggregator for most teachers. Given most educators' time constraints, finding updated information from lots of blogs in a single fast and convenient location is essential if blogs are to actually be used as a PLN resource on a regular basis. 'Nuff said.
It is only slowly that I am using GoogleReader (my aggregator of choice) to stay current on other information sources - to have the news find me instead of having to find the news. Yes, I am a slow learner. These are more recent additions:
- Mainstream media columnists. Whenever NYT's writers Paul Krugman, Maurreen Dowd, David Brooks, or Tom Friedman publish new columns, I now get them immediately. I am sure other columnists are available as well, but these are the ones I've sought out.
- delicious subscriptions. Whenever new bookmarks are added on selected tags, they appear in my aggregator. Cool.
- GoogleNews searches. (thanks to David Warlick for this suggestion). Articles on e-books, cyberbullying, and school libraries appear almost daily in my reader, most published in the mainstream press.
- "Reputation monitoring." I've added Technorati and delicious searches for "Doug Johnson" just to see which of my writings and blog posts are being bookmarked and commented upon. I know I must surprise some bloggers by saying "thanks for the mention" now and then in their own blogs. I also built a Google News search feed for "Mankato Area Public Schools." I need to do this yet in Technorati.
Answer to a follow-up question:
Forgive me for asking, but I looked at the help,etc. and I couldn't figure it out. I have a Google Reader account, and I wanted to try one of the things you talked about in your blog--setting it up to get Google news articles about certain topics. I know I can subscribe to Google News, but I understood from your post that you could set it up to retrieve only articles on topics you were interested in. I want to show the debate team how to do this on their debate topics, but I wanted to try it out myself for a couple of days first. Can you give me some instruction, please?
- Go to GoogleNews and do the search on your term.
- When the results come back, look in the left column of the screen. You will find links to RSS and Atom.
- Click on either (I use RSS), and a page will appear with a URL link that ends in “=rss” or “=atom”
- Copy and paste that link into your GoogleReader “Add subscription” box.
- Manage the subscription like you would one to a blog.