Tag Archives: Google Reader

My Day at Google

Today, I got the opportunity to spend the day at Google Austin. My school was given the opportunity to learn more about Chromebooks and their potential in the classroom. Such an amazing opportunity. First and foremost, it was exciting to visit Google. We’ve all heard about it – it’s a magical place of rainbows and unicorns, dogs wander the halls, hipsters wander the halls, and the food is amazing. Finally getting into the halls of the famed charmed company some myths were dispelled – others reaffirmed. I didn’t see any rainbows or unicorns – perhaps they hide them from visitors in the ‘special room.’ No dogs either – a little disappointing as I was hoping to get my puppy fix. However, the food story is in fact true – we were fed in the Google dining room. Ohh… my… gosh… the food was organic, lean, fresh veggies and fruit abounded – and I got my caffeine fix. I was also given a bag of schwag – a chrome colored lanyard with my name on it proves that I did in fact attend. Ironically, I was also given a paper notebook and a ball point pen.

The purpose of our visit was to check out Chromebooks as well as to network with educators employing Google Apps (and Chromebooks) in their classroom. If you are unfamiliar with Chromebooks, they are a new hardware platform being marketed by Google. They are a hardware platform solely dedicated to accessing web apps – specifically, Google’s online suite of applications. They are very new, inexpensive, and promote the idea that applications are moving to entirely online.

There is no doubt that was Google is doing is impressive. I use a lot of Google Applications (and have written about their educational applications). There are definitely some plus and minuses about the Chromebook platform.

Pros

  • Very fast start up (8 seconds)
  • Same experience regardless of machine – student just needs to be able to access Chrome
  • Ready access to a suite of free and practice applications – word processing, presentation, video, graphing calculators, and more
  • Storage of all materials on the web – fewer excuses for ‘forgetting homework at home’)
  • Access to the internet via WiFi and 3G
  • No licensing fees
  • Readily applicable to schools with limited or no IT services – managed by Google
  • Phone support
  • Less initial investment
  • Management platform
  • Secure start-up

Cons

  • Overal financial investment comparable to a other hardware purchase
  • Limited off-line capabilities – a particular concern in Texas as we have a lot of 3G black-out areas
  • Limited ‘heavy duty’ computing – video or audio editing seems limited
  • Limited multi-tasking (same issue with iPads or other tablets)
  • Management platform and education pricing dependent on three year purchase agreement and does not permit individual ownership.
  • Apple-addicts like myself are left in the cold – no iTunes!!

My overall perception of Chromebooks is that they have a lot of potential and can work effectively in the right context.  It does seem to require a universal roll-out to be effective in an educational environment and I am not quite comfortable with the all-online platform. However, if your staff largely uses computer technology for traditional projects (Word Processing, Presentations, email, online research, etc) then it can be a cost-effective and flexible option. It is definitely worth a look. 

 

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RSS Readers – Keeping Up With Your News & Blogs

Tonight, I get the privilege of being in the beautiful city of San Francisco and spent a lovely evening with my good friend and former colleague Michelle. I was totally thrilled that she loved my post about Twitter – “How to Use Tiwtter (and why it’s not a Waste of Time)“, even going so far as to revive her Twitter account. We then started talking about her inability to keep up with mine and other’s Blog posts (we have a few mutual friends that are prolific bloggers). I asked her if she used an RSS Reader and she looked at me a bit blankly. So, I thought “Good topic for a new post – RSS Readers.”

So, what is an RSS Reader and why should you use one? To put it simply, it’s a service that keeps up new posts on your new sites and blogs, all in one place, so that you don’t have to. Instead of having a dozen or more bookmarks that you go to daily or hourly, you can ‘bookmark’ them all using an RSS Reader service and keep it all in one place. A good, visual introduction to an RSS reader is here, at “RSS in Plain English”

Now probably the best, most reliable, and easiest to use RSS Reader is “Google Reader.” The service is free. If you already have a google or gmail account, then Reader is included. If you don’t, then you can sign up for free. Google Reader is remarkably easy to use and organize. Here’s a picture of what mine looks like:

I like to keep it organized under different topics – Headline News, Blogs, Celebrity Gossip, Social Science, Technology, etc. You can easily organize and edit how your own blogs are organized by clicking “Manage my Subscriptions” at the bottom of the screen.

By clicking on manage subscriptions, you will bring up this window, which you can use to add folders, tags, etc.

So, you now have your Google Reader account set up, how do you add News and Blogs? There are a few ways. The first is to go to your Google Reader home page and click on the link “Add A Subscription” and enter the URL or News Feed. This is most effective method for a blog that you visit regularly that won’t have hundreds of updates a day.

Some websites will also have a button that shows you can add it easily to your Google Reader account, click on it and follow the directions:

Prominent news sites (like BBC, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, etc) will be much busier and more confusing. If you are like me, you aren’t interested in the 1,000+ updates that you would get a day. I’ll show you how to navigate through that using CNN. Most news sites (but not all) will have the link for RSS on the very bottom of the page. If you cannot find it there, just do a quick search of the page for “RSS” (command – F will bring up a search window).

This will then bring you to a page with RSS feeds for different topics.

As you see, CNN has a link to automatically add to your Yahoo feed (if you subscribe). You can also click on the various links – then return to Google Reader, “add a subscription,” cut-paste-voila. As another point of reference, here is what the RSS subscription page looks like on MSNBC (and there are three pages of categories).

As you can see, there are a ton of services that you can use. New article postings are automatically updated – nearly to the second. There are even portable options for your iPhone (that will sync with your Google or Yahoo account). This way, you can read on the go. My current favorite is an App called Reeder – which has a Mac, iPhone, and iPad version and syncs with my Google Reader, also allowing me to post to Twitter or Facebook!

At the end of the day, this is a tool that can help you organize your information and keep you updated on the go!