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Category: Internet

I could be almost anywhere, I suppose, and you could find me. You don’t need to know where I am, just how to get a hold of me. Need some help with your blog? Can’t register for a workshop? I’m right here, just a click away. Two weeks ago I was three time zones away but right here when you needed me. That’s why living on the Internet is so important. And I don’t mean you need to be in constant contact glued to a screen. I’m not a Tweeter and I make just limited use of social networking. Yet I always pack my virtual Internet bag with presentations, word processing documents, blogs, calendars and forms no matter where I go. I don’t leave home without them.

I live in the land of Google. Some might think trusting everything to Google is risky; and you might have a valid argument; but not living in Google means you either aren’t in contact or you have to trust someone else like Microsoft or Sun Micro Systems. I’ll take my chances with Google. I do my writing in Google Documents, prepare and share presentations there and keep track of the world with Google Calendars,  iGoogle and Google Reader.

Living in cyberspace is the way the digital world is headed. And the Oregon Department of Education has figured that out. Oregon is the first state to sign an agreement with Google to bring Google Apps for Education to every school district in Oregon. Google Apps will put us all together all the time. Students will be able to access documents anytime they have access to the Internet not just when the class troops down to the computer lab. Students can share documents, collaborate simultaneously on the same document, give access to teachers, publish to the Web and join virtual classes and meetings. Teachers can even grade papers on Google. Think of the money schools can save on paper, printers and Microsoft Office licenses.

Google Apps for Education is a big step in the direction of the blended school day. Way to go Oregon!

An RSS feed (Real Simple Syndication) is an easy way to view content from all over the Web in just one location.  Basically the world comes to you. Think of how a newspaper works collecting stories from news agencies around the world and then delivering them in print form to your doorstep. An RSS feed (used with a feed reader) is the digital version of a newspaper only you decide what gets published. But, unlike a newspaper, the RSS feed delivers 24/7.

rssfeedlargeImagine using browser bookmarks or links on a Web page to visit 100 Web sites and trying to discover the new content on the sites . . .  and doing this every day. No one has that kind of time. If you do, you might want to consider doing some community volunteer work. With RSS feeds and a feed reader, you can scan new content from your favorite sites in just minutes giving you time to . . . do some community volunteer work.

A reader, or feed reader, collects and organizes all your RSS feeds in one location. One of the more popular readers is Google Reader. You open your reader in the morning much like you open  your newspaper. Everything that’s new on the sites you subscribe to will be there.

Here’s a quick step-by-step:

1. Follow the link above to Google Reader. Log in with your Google account or create a Google account if you don’t have one. Click on “Try it out”.
2. You’ll see Google Reader appear. Google has some great help menus and tutorials. Use these to learn even more about RSS feeds and readers.
3.  There are two easy ways to add content to your reader. First, try clicking on “Add a Subscription” in the upper left. Type in a key word like “Math” or “Belly Dancing” or any subject you are interested in. Math may be too general so you can refine your search by typing “K12 Math”. In the results that show up, click on a name of a site to see if  it provides the types of content you want. If it is, click on the + sign and an RSS feed from the site will be added to the left-hand column in your reader.
4. The second way to get content is to go to the Web sites or blogs you normally visit and see if there is an RSS feed logo present rssfeed or clickable text to subscribe to an RSS feed to the site. Click on the logo or the link and follow the prompts to add this site to your Google Reader.
5. Once you begin to collect sites in your reader, you’ll want to organize them. Sometimes this means renaming them or putting like sites into a folder. You can also delete sites that you no longer want. There is a “manage subscriptions” link at the bottom left of your Google Reader. Click the link to get organized.
6. Finally, find a specific time each day or every few days when you can spend 5-10 minutes with the content in your reader.

What you’ll discover over time is the power of being in touch without getting the life force sucked out of you. You’ll also find you are part of a burgeoning Web of people with like interests that will help you grow professionally and personally.

An educational blog is a great way to provide information and resources to parents, students and colleagues. However, blogging in the Web 2.0 world is much more than that. Using a blog to simply provide information is more Web 1.0 than Web 2.0. Blogging in today’s Internet is all about creating community. So here are three  suggestions for how, as an educator, you might create that community:

Tell the world every chance you get. . .

Tell the world every chance you get. . .

1. Use your blog to illicit input. Ask questions, post a survey, wax philosophical, sollicit volunteers or talk about a educational challenge for which you need help.

2. Use every interaction with your audience to encourage them to participate with you in blogging. This might mean having a volunteer at parent-teacher conferences show parents how to get to your blog on the Web. It might mean highlighting your blog in newsletters that get taken or mailed home. You might make a brief presentation at your next staff meeting or PTO meeting.  Ask your district’s Web master to post a link to your blog. Every contact you make might be an important link to creating your blog community.

3. Join other educational bloggers through RSS feeds and online readers (discussed in the next posting). This might initially mean just educators in your building or district. But there are educational blogs state-wide, nation-wide and even world wide that you might find interesting. Most importantly, joining these bloggers creates a larger community where the sharing of ideas can have a very positive impact on both your job performance and on you personally. It is rewarding and exciting to know that someone in North Carolina has read your blog or given you a great idea for tomorrow’s lesson plan.

Leave a comment here if you would like your blog added to the links on this blog; or if you know of an educational blog that would be useful to educators, pass it along.

Welcome to the world of blogging as we now know it!