Over the last month I’ve been a guest on a couple of Google+ Hangouts and podcasts in which I’ve been asked about my process for curating and sharing resources. I realize that listening to me get long-winded on a podcast or Google+ Hangout isn’t for everyone so I’ve outlined my curation and sharing process below.
Feedly: Even before Google announced the demise of Google Reader I was using Feedly on my Android tablets to browse through my RSS subscriptions. I currently subscribe to 284 blogs and websites through Feedly. Feedly has two big appeals to me. First, the visual layout of vertical tiles on my tablet’s screen and vertically scrolling rows on my laptop’s screen just fit with how I process information. Second, from Feedly I can quickly share to Evernote for bookmarking and to Google+, Twitter, and a myriad of other social networks. (I should note that Feedly seems to act a little differently for my on my iPad. For that reason I tend to use my Nexus 7 or my laptop when catching up on feeds).
Twitter, Google+, Diigo, Emails from readers: Not everything that I write about is discovered through my RSS subscriptions. Some things are discovered through social sharing. Tweets, Google+ posts, Diigo shares, and emails from readers also lead me to good resources. It’s part of the reason why I follow more than 10,000 people on Twitter. I always try to acknowledge in my blog posts whenever one of those social channels leads to a good resource.
⅓ Get Bookmarked or Shared: I flip through thousands of items every week. Of those, maybe ⅓ get bookmarked for further reading or sharing with others. Of those items some have no relevance to my readers, they’re just for my own interest (like things I bookmarked while researching skiing and sailing in Iceland). Other items are worth sharing to my followers on Twitter or Google+ but don’t warrant me writing my own blog post about them (news about an edtech start-up getting a new round of investment is interesting to some followers, but not for most visitors to my blog - I’ll leave that stuff to Audrey Watters who handles it much better than I would).
25% get written about: Of the items that I bookmark and share on social media, perhaps 25% actually make the cut down to where I will try the tool and write a review about it. For an app or website to make that cut it has to meet a few guidelines that I follow for myself.
Making the cut: To make the final cut to appear on my blog an app or website needs to have a user interface that is intuitive enough for the average classroom teacher to feel like he or she doesn’t need a computer science background to use it. In other words, when I take a look at it I think to myself “could all of the members of my department understand how this works?” If the answer is “no,” then I move on from it. There are some exceptions to this rule. Sometimes I come across things that I know will take a while for a teacher to understand how to use, but once they get the hang of it, they’ll benefit from it for a long time. A great example of this is the Doctopus Script for Google Drive. I always tell people that the first few times you try to use Doctopus you’ll probably not get the results you want, but once you get the hang of it you’ll love it.
My other big consideration in deciding what does or doesn’t appear on Free Technology for Teachers or iPadApps4School.com or Android4Schools.com is whether or not the app or site offers anything different from its competitors. The difference doesn’t have to be huge, but there has to be some difference worth acknowledging. For example, there are hundreds of places to find educational games online, I could write about those all day and night. I only write about the ones that offer something slightly different whether that is they were coded by students, they’re raising money for some charity (see FreeRice.com) or they have a mechanism for teachers and parents to track students’ progress, it has to have some difference worth noting.
If an app or site is designed for student use I do consider how much advertising or kind of advertising it displays. Pop-up ads that distract students from the flow of an activity will generally lead to an app or site not making the cut.