Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Using Google Alerts as a Web Research Tool

Google Alerts, mentioned in the previous post, is a handy web research tool. If there is topic that you or your students frequently search for, consider creating a Google Alert for that topic. You can create a Google Alert using any combination of search terms. Each time new content matching those search terms is indexed, the content or link (depending on your selection), is delivered to your choice of email or RSS reader.

Embedded below is a good video introduction to using Google Alerts.

Applications for Education
The most obvious academic use for Google Alerts is in a current events course. If your students are responsible for finding, tracking, and summarizing news stories, Google Alerts can help them find new stories.
For your own professional development, Google Alerts is a handy way to have new content brought to you rather than you searching for new content.

A Look at Edublogs From Outside the Echo Chamber

Today, I came across the Social Media Explorer blog through my Google Alerts (more about Google Alerts in the next blog post). Social Media Explorer is written by Jason Falls. SME appeared in my Google Alerts because Free Technology for Teachers appears in Jason's list of the top 50 education blogs according to reader engagement as measured by Post Rank. (Incidentally, the Post Rank widget on the right side of this blog ranks the five most popular blog entries at any given time).

Usually, when I see a blog post with list like this one I scan the list and don't think twice about it. This blog post was interesting because the list was generated by someone that is outside of the edublog-o-sphere or "echo chamber." In the blog post Mr. Falls explains the process he used to find 150 education blogs. The final top 50 list includes some blogs that I had not heard of prior to today. That said, the list is by no means inclusive and clearly misses some bloggers that are well known in the edublogging world . Overall, the article and list is worth taking the time to read because it provide us with an outsider's look at the edublogging echo chamber.

Edit: I initially wrote that Larry Ferlazzo was not on the list. As Larry points out in the comments, he is on the list, in fact he's number 9. My apologies to Larry.

A Colorado Middle School Cuts Lunches

Today's episode of CNN Student News contains a story about a Colorado middle school that stopped serving lunches to students with unpaid lunch accounts. When total unpaid balance approached $10,000, the school stopped serving lunch to those students whose parents had not paid the balance.

Applications for Education
Having students watch this story could be a great way to start a discussion with students about personal money management.
CNN posts a ten question quiz to along with each Student News episode. Today's quiz includes a question about whether or the school district did the right thing.

Using in my Classroom

Yesterday, someone in my Twitter network posted a link to an article on Make Use Of titled 8 Ways to Use I've mentioned eight times on this blog including How Saved My Morning and My 12 Favorite Resources of 2008. The article on Make Use Of outlines eight ways that the general population can use After reading the article I thought it would be appropriate to mention some ways that I have used in my classroom.

Applications for Education
Substitute Plans: Last year when my school decided to try to give old (8-9 years old) laptops to all 9th grade students, I took as full advantage of the opportunity as I could. One thing I did early on was to call my account and leave messages for my students on the days when I was going to be out of the classroom. The first step in all of my sub plans then became, "have students listen to voicemail message on their laptops." By doing this, the students could no longer say, "the sub didn't tell us to do that."

Outlines, slideshows, assignments, and rubrics: is a very simple way to post resources that your students and their parents may need. Students, especially 9th grade students, lose a lot of papers. Rather than giving students extra copies of materials, they can go online to view or print the materials they've lost. Posting materials on is also a great way to share information with parents, particularly PDF's of permission slips or other forms that parents may need to sign for their children.

Organize a webquest: Some of my special education students have difficulty transcribing or correctly entering long urls. One method I've used to help students get beyond urls and into the content of a webquest is to post on a list of hyperlinked urls for students to click in sequence.

Have you tried yet? How are you using in your classroom?