One of the questions that face those with a growing Professional Learning Network is: How can you effectively manage the flow of information? Also, a related question is: With all of the information available at any given moment on the Web, how can I possibly hope to keep abreast of the cutting edges issues in education? One of these information management tools for me is Google Reader. It is my front-line solution in staying on top of education issues.
Getting administrators who are not heavy web users to use Google Reader. might need some convincing and a general understanding of what it does. I think this video “Google Reader in Plain English” an excellent starting point to provide them with an over view of what Google Reader does.
Google Reader in Plain English
Recently, I shared with some of our central office administrators how Google Reader helps me keep up with the massive flow of education information. Here are my top five reasons for using Google Reader (Or RSS Readers in General if you wish):
1. Since our school system converted to Google Apps last summer, utilizing Google Reader makes sense. There are desktop RSS aggregators out there, and a number of them have more features than Google Reader. But since we are already using Google Apps, it makes sense to avoid adding just another desktop program to our computers. Google Reader is easy to set up and with our administrators’ already existing Gmail and Google App accounts adding another program icon on which they must click just muddies the water more.
2. Google Reader allows me to subscribe to specific sites that offer the latest news impacting education. For example, I currently follow the US Department of Education’s site through Google Reader. I get every news release by that department as soon as they post it. I also follow other sites like ASCD and the National School Boards Association. Many of these sites provide daily updates on educational issues impacting schools now or in the near future. Google Reader gives me the capability to often follow the news at its source, and most of the time I see the information before it comes to me through a state department of education email or a superior’s newsletter.
3. Google Reader allows me to follow blogs that consistently provide top-notch information and ideas. For example, one of my favorite blogs is Lifehacker. This site provides lots of ideas on shortcuts both technological and common sense. Google Reader brings it’s latest posts to me rather than requiring me to visit their site every day. I can follow many of these blogs that provide an on-going flood of ideas and information.
4. The format of Google Reader allows me to easily scan articles. If the article is one that I should read more completely, I download that article for a closer look. If it’s one I want to make even more extensive notes, I pull it over to Diigo. The way Google Reader downloads the feeds and formats (which is also customizable) makes skimming and scanning so easy. I choose which ones need more attention.
5. Since Google Reader follows sources and not specific topics, I get to decide which sources to follow. While Google Reader does make suggestions for other blogs to follow, I decide which ones satisfy my information needs. I have complete control of the information sources I review each day, which means have control of both the quality of information I want and the quantity. Google Reader puts the user in the driver’s seat over the flow of information.
Google Reader is truly a solution that allows me to have some control over my information flow each day. In the 21st century, administrators, and I would add all educators, need to use the tools that are available to assist us with this information-saturated, global environment. Google Reader does that for me.