Tech Tip Tuesday – RSS and Google Reader

Stop spending hours looking for information online – have the information come to you. How can make this happen?   By using Google Reader and RSS

What is RSS?  RSS (real simple syndication) is the ability to “subscribe” to changes made on a website or blog. (Click here to view a video: RSS in Plain English)

First, you need to access your Google Reader.  Go to http://www.google.com/reader and sign in with your Google Account. This is where all of your subscriptions will be stored.

If you are not aware of which websites have RSS feeds, you can search for them by clicking on Add Subscriptions” button and search for feeds.  The search results will list websites that have RSS feeds for your topic.  Choose the one that interests you by clicking on the “Subscribe” button to add this information to your reader.  Now whenever that website has an update, you will be notified in your reader.  Unread messages are saved in “bold” until you read them.

If the RSS feed in incorrect or no longer useful, you can unsubscribe and you will no longer receive updates in your Google Reader.

There is another way to add feeds to your Google Reader. When browsing on a website, look for the standard RSS icon for subscription options. Click on the standard RSS icon. Most blogs have feed autodiscovery enabled, meaning the site will automatically tell Reader where to find a blog’s feed. If this doesn’t work, you’ll have to add the URL of a site’s feed directly. Find the RSS logo on the site in question, click it, and copy and paste the link into the ‘add subscription’ box.

If you can’t find an RSS logo on the site, the site may not offer RSS feeds.

Once you get into the habit of subscribing for news or information, you will find that you search less.  Stay up to date with breaking news, School updates, latest blog posts or news from your favorite website with RSS and Google Reader.

Once you become familiar with Google Reader, make sure you check out these cool features:

An archive of Tech Tip Tuesday is located at http://sites.google.com/site/techtipstuesday/

Reflecting back .. looking forward

reflection
Looking back on 2008. 1st photo of 2009/365 Flickr project.

The beginning of a new year is always a great time to reflect on growth and accomplishments of the past year.

For me professionally, 2008 brought about the greatest change.  Having the opportunity to present concurrent sessions at ITSC, NCCE and ILC 2008 gave me the opportunity to expand and connect f2f with my personal learning network.  I love sharing what I am doing with my students and get a lot of energy from meeting educators everywhere.

The highlight of the year was attending the Google Teacher Academy in June.  The way the “out-of-towners” connected ahead of time and the camaraderie we developed truly made that experience worthwhile.  The GCT discussion board is one of the more vibrant and best sharing resources out there.  Make sure you apply if there is a GTA in your area.

One of the Google projects that I started with MaryFran Lynch is Tech Tip Tuesday.  Each week MaryFran and I email a simple tech tip about a Google product and share it with our faculty.  We archive all of our tips at http://sites.google.com/site/techtipstuesday/.  Not only have I learned even more (Google joke) about all things Google, posting the tips each week on this blog has also helped my own blogging this year – about 88 posts this year (not counting Delicious links).

2008 also brought about changes to our family.  My youngest son headed off to Gonzaga this year which left my husband and I as empty nesters – which probably also has a lot of do with the increase in my blogging at the end of this year~  🙂

I look forward to 2009.  I am presenting at NCCE in February, NCEA in April and for the first time – NECC in June.  I am participating in the 2009/365 photo-a-day flickr challenge – which should be a lot of fun.  My husband gets some sabbatical time off this next summer and we are beginning to plan an extended trip around the US.

Thanks to all the readers of this blog.  I learn so much from you each day by reading your blogs and your sharing on Twitter.  Take care!

Tech Tip Tuesday – iGoogle Gadgets

Following Google’s philosophy of making the information you want readily available to you, iGoogle offers many different gadgets and themes to customize your iGoogle home page. Here’s a look at what we’ve done with ours.

From Mary Fran:

I really like a quick snapshot of the time and weather. That’s why Date & Time and Weather are at the top of my page.

To keep organized I now have my Google calendar on my iGoogle page. My husband and I share calendars, so if he forgets to tell me about a meeting he has at night, I find out about it by checking the calendar. I also miss fewer birthdays and the ToDo list that is easier for me to keep track of now that it isn’t on a piece of paper that’s easy to lose.

Cooking is one of my favorite pastimes, but I rarely sit down and look at the magazines I get in the mail. To keep meals interesting at home, I have the Epicurious.com and 100 Cookbooks gadgets. There are often fast, easy, and yummy recipes to try. And if the recipes are really good, I just copy them to a folder to keep track of them.

I like knowing what’s going on in the world, and I like to get the news from different perspectives. That’s why I have the CNN, BBC, and NYTimes news gadgets on my iGoogle page. After reading the news, Inspirational Quotes and Pictures often gives me a quick pick-me-up, as does the Places to See gadget. They take me away from it all for a second. And, if I want to find out more about the place, there is a Google Search box on the Places to See gadget so I can find out more about the place and broaden my horizons.

On my class iGoogle page, I keep Phases of the Moon, the World Daylight Map, a timer, and a Dictionary Gadget. It makes it easy for me to pull them up in a second should the opportunity to use them arise.

From Colette:

On my main iGoogle page, I keep my critical Google gadgets:  Gmail, Docs, Calendar and Reader. This allows me to quickly scan which items need my attention, unread messages, and appointments.  Because I see my iGoogle page every time I open my browser, I can easily keep on track of all that’s going on in my life.

Like MaryFran, I also have several news feeds on my page plus the 4-day weather forecast.  I also like to occasionally try out new gadgets on my homepage.  If after a few weeks I find that I don’t use it – I switch it out for another.  Currently I am checking out:  How to of the Day, MyRecipes:  Dinner Tonight, and Free Coupons Finder 2.1.

Don’t want to spend a lot of time searching through all the gadgets?  You can add thematic tabs that are already populated with gadgets.  For example, if you add a new tab and name it “Just for Fun“, the following gadgets will appear on that tab for you (keep “I’m feeling lucky” checked):  Joke of the Day, Sudoku, Hangman, Quote of the Day and Horoscope.  Consider adding tabs named Finance, News or Sports and see which gadgets show up.

Another tip: Did you know you can share iGoogle tabs you create with your friends?  Click on the down arrow on the tab name and choose “share”.  You can also edit your tabs or restore your iGoogle page to a preview version.

Have fun with your customizing your iGoogle page and don’t forget to check out the Artistic themes and customizable themes for your iGoogle page.  The themes color your iGoogle page with holiday images, artwork and color schemes. Some even change throughout the day, depending on the time.

Tech Tip Tuesday is written and published weekly by MaryFran Lynch and Colette Cassinelli.  The archive of all tips are located at:  http://sites.google.com/site/techtipstuesday/

Tech Tip Tuesday – Google Presentations

Google Presentation is not quite robust a presentation program as PowerPoint or Keynote but students can create their entire presentation online and work on it with group members or access it from home/school.  But I have found the REAL POWER of Google Presentations is when you use the online presentation format.

Instead of my students sitting passively watching a student’s PowerPoint presentation, a presenter publishes their presentation online.  In the Computer Lab each student logs into a Google account and accesses the presentation URL.  I allow students to participate in the chat during the presentation as long as their comments are about the presentation, they type additional information about the content, or ask questions to the presenter.  I monitor the chat closely – but I have to say – when I have done this with my students – there is 100% engagement in the presentation and they handle the responsibility of being in the chat room well (it only takes one student to get kicked out and the rest shape up fast!).  They love it and its a great way to get the whole class involved in a presentation.
Here’s how it works:
  1. Upload you PowerPoint file to Google Presentations (up to 10MB from your computer)
  2. Warning:  Not all formatting features from Design Templates will always be preserved and there is NO animation.
  3. When you publish your presentation to the Internet anyone will be able to access and view it online. They will also be able to join the presentation online and chat with others also viewing the presentation. Your document will be assigned a unique address (URL) on google.com. To do this go to Share button (upper right of screen) and choose Publish.
  4. Click on the published link and this will open up your PowerPoint online and a chat window will appear on the right side of the screen.
  5. In order for audience members to discuss the presentation, they will need to log into their Google account so their name will appear in the chat window.
  6. Google Presentations also provides you with the embed code if you want to place your Google presentation in a webpage, blog or wiki.
  7. Click HERE to view a sample presentation and its chat window.

Tech Tip Tuesday is written and published weekly by MaryFran Lynch and Colette Cassinelli.  The archive of all tips are located at:  http://sites.google.com/site/techtipstuesday/.

Tech Tip Tuesday – Google Forms and Spreadsheets

Collecting data from multiples users has always been quite the challenge.  But now thanks to Google shared spreadsheets and forms – it’s a snap!

Just like Google Docs, spreadsheets can be shared with anyone.  This makes collecting information easier than ever.  Here are some examples of how I have used Google spreadsheets:

  • Collect names, addresses and emails of group members
  • Create a survey for opinions. votes, or preferences
  • Collaborate with others for data collection (ie, fast food nutritional information, State facts, Historical data)
  • Financial Planning or Budgets
  • Project planning
  • Student information

Here’s how:

  1. Before you start, decide how you want users to enter the data on a spreadsheet.
    • Access a Google spreadsheet and add the data directly on the spreadsheet.  Note:  All other data will be visible.
    • Email a form and users submit the data right from their email program.
    • Link to the published form from a URL.
    • Embed a form into a webpage and users submit the data from the embedded form
  2. You can create a new spreadsheet at http://docs.google.com by going to New / Spreadsheet. This will open a blank spreadsheet which you should name and save.  Enter your titles, data, or formulas and then click on the SHARE button to enter the email addresses of those you want to collaborate.  They will receive an email with a link to be able to access the spreadsheet.
  3. Another option is to upload an existing Excel spreadsheet.  Now you can access this data from any computer.
  4. If you would rather have the users enter the data into a FORM – go to New / Form and you will see the beginnings of a web form.  Add your questions and choose the type of answer:  text, paragraph, check boxes, multiple choice, choose from a list or Scale (1-n). When done, save and then choose to “publish” the form (it provides a long URL), “Email this form”, or from “More Actions”, get the embed code to embed the form into a webpage, wiki or blog.
  5. When users enter the data into the form and press submit, all of the data will be dropped into ONE spreadsheet.  This is an excellent way to gather data from multiple users.

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FILL OUT THIS SAMPLE FORM AND VIEW THE RESULTS AT: http://spreadsheets.google.com/viewform?key=p_VM5beL2JAol78Ek1DwkSQ

Tech Tip Tuesday is written and published weekly by MaryFran Lynch and Colette Cassinelli.  The archive of all tips are located at:  http://sites.google.com/site/techtipstuesday/.

Tech Tip Tuesday – Teaching Revision & Google Templates

By MaryFran Lynch

Revision

Last week we introduced you to Google Docs and gave you some ideas of times you might want to use the text feature to collaborate with your colleagues and times you might like to have your students use it. This week, we’d like to introduce you to one of the great features of Google Docs, Revision. The Revision feature keeps track of changes, when they were made, and, if the document has been shared with collaborators, who made them. It also gives you the opportunity to compare two versions of the document, and to revert to any of the previous versions. Whether you’re working on your own, or working with others, having a history of the different versions can be really helpful.

As a collaborator revises, their changes and comments can be made in different text colors. As a teacher, this gives you a great record of who has done the work, and when it was entered. You’ll need to be sure your students invite you to the Document as a collaborator so you have access to it and can revise it or leave comments on the document. And the great thing about leaving comments is that when you are ready to print, and click the Print link, none of the comments will show.

You’ll find this feature under File > Revision History
Teaching students how to revise is an important skill, especially when they are working collaboratively. Recognizing the need to teach that skill, Google teamed with Weekly Reader to help you teach revision skills in your classroom. Here you’ll find downloadable PDF files you can use with your students to help them learn collaborative revision skills.
Screen shot of Google Templates for Teachers and Students

Templates

Google has made it so easy to use Google Docs! They’ve even thought of a number of times you might like to use Google Docs and have made a Template Gallery with over 300 templates that are ready for you to use! You’ll find Templates under New > From template…

There you can perform a search for the kind of template your might like. There’s even a section devoted to Students and Teachers. You can find templates for your students to write a paper or for you to write a lesson plan. There are templates to help you make an online math quiz or templates to record grades.

But it doesn’t stop there. You’ll find templates for all kinds of things! Here are just a few examples of the kinds of templates Google is there to help you with:  calendars, invitations, gas mileage calculator. Take a look, more are becoming available all the time.

Just as with any Google Doc, you can share your template with others to collaborate or view, using the steps outlined last week.

Tech Tip Tuesday is written and published weekly by MaryFran Lynch and Colette Cassinelli.  The archive of all tips are located at:  http://sites.google.com/site/techtipstuesday/.

Tech Tip Tuesday – Intro to Google Docs

Google’s focus will always be providing high quality search results but many of their other products have revolutionized how individuals share information and collaborate on documents.

This week’s tip is to introduce you to Google Docs & Spreadsheets.  Google Docs makes creating, editing and sharing documents so easy and best of all – it’s FREE!  Your documents are stored online and you can easily access them anytime and from any computer.
Do you know what that means?  No more keeping track of jump drives … no more emailing documents back and forth from home to work … no more worries about incompatible software programs.
HOW IT WORKS
First of all you need a Google account. You’ll be able to use your Google Account to use many of the tools Google has, and you don’t need to sign up for a Google e-mail account to have one. You will, however, need to provide an e-mail address and a password while filling in a short form.  Once you receive your verification e-mail, you’ll be ready to try Google Docs.If you have a gmail account, you can get to Google Docs by clicking on Documents usually found at the left-hand top of the page. Or you can go to http://docs.google.com/ and click on the NEW button (upper left) to create a document, spreadsheet, presentation or form.  You can start from scratch or upload an existing document that you already have on your computer.
Google Docs has basic editing features like font effects, images, tables. If you’re interested in more advanced publishing features, you can easily export the files to other programs (hint:  you can download your docs in a variety of formats:  HTML, OpenOffice, PDF, Word, RTF and more).
THE BEST PART
So why use Google Docs?  Your document is stored online. And now you have a document online, you can access it from any computer at home and work (or Starbucks!) but here’s the best part … you can invite others to view or edit the document online (use the SHARE button on upper right side) and everyone can make changes to the document, EVEN AT THE SAME TIME!!!
Just think .. no more emailing drafts back and forth to team members … everyone can add their own revisions to the same document and watch it improve.  Google Docs encourages collaboration and keeps the documents organized in one location.  You can view the revision history to see who made which edits or even revert to a previous version.
IT’S SO EASY
So now you have an easy way to create or edit existing documents from anywhere, share and collaborate instantly, and eliminate confusing email attachments and version-control issues.
Watch a video on getting started with Google Docs: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XyjY8ZLzZrw

Coming next …  Google Doc templates, forms for data collection, using Google Docs with your students, publishing your documents online and even more!
Tech Tip Tuesday is written and published weekly by MaryFran Lynch and Colette Cassinelli.  The archive of all tips are located at:  http://sites.google.com/site/techtipstuesday/.

Image credit:  http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Image:Usbdrive_icon.svg