After discovering that I was already signed up for Google Reader, I did not explore any other RSS feed options. The best thing I did to make Google Reader more accessible was make iGoogle my home page and then add the Google Reader gadget to my iGoogle.
I really like that I can see the new posts on my feed and even get a "quick view" by clicking on the title of the new post. I am still working on training myself to add sites/blogs I visit to my Google Reader feed. I have found that there are great links on Twitter and sometimes I "favourite" the tweet when I could just add the link to my feed and get the updates right on my home page.
I did spend some time organizing my list of sites/blogs I am following.
I created some basic categories to represent the current list of items I am following. I can see refining this list as my feeds grow. For example, "education" is a pretty broad category. I know I may want to divide that into my teaching areas - like English 12, Literature, or Leadership. I can also see being more specific with my library feeds. Richardson (2010) suggests taking the time to become comfortable with subscribing and managing and then you can play with some of the more advanced uses for Google Reader.
I try to keep on top of the new feeds that come in, but I have used the "mark all as read" button a few times, just to prevent feeling overwhelmed. What I do like is the "star" feature that allows me to save specific posts that I want to revisit or read a little more closely.
In the past, I would bookmark or save pages and then never look at them again or forget they were there. Because Google Reader is visible on my desktop all the time, I actually spend time reading and often commenting on feeds that I receive, but I can also save them in the same place so they are not so easily forgotten. In a recent interview in Teacher Librarian (Valenza, 2011), Bobbi Newman points out that Google Reader shouldn't dominate your life, it should be "the servant, not the master." (Valenza, 2011, p. 28) This shows how important it is to organize our online worlds and then make the tools work for us. It took some exploring and "playing" for me to find the right visual tools to include on my iGoogle page, but now that I am happy with the set up, I find I am spending less time browsing, and more time reading meaningful ideas and posts. Valenza (2010) talks about "weeding" and organizing her own networks like we do in the library. It is important to stay on top of our feeds, which feeds are outdated or no longer reflect our PLN or needs? Which feeds are inactive? I also already find myself being more selective in the subscriptions I choose to add. In a very Sienfeld moment I find myself wondering if this blog is "Google Reader worthy."
Reading about feeds, or "aggregators" has given me a better understanding of how they work so that I can add them to my reader, but also make my blogs available for others to follow. (Berger & Trexler, 2010) I am hoping to encourage my students to add a feed reader to follow our class blog so that they can instantly get the updates, especially on their mobile devices.
Another thing I plan to continue to explore with Google Reader as suggested by Richardson (2010), is tagging the posts I want to save with my own tags. Reader will then group them in folders for me. This will be a great way to store ideas for future lessons or ideas for my library. It would also be a great way to store material for presentations and professional reading and sharing.
Berger, P. & Trexler, S. (2010). Choosing Web 2.0 tools for learning and teaching in a digital world.
Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.
Richardson, W. (2010). Blogs, wikis, podcasts, and other powerful web tools for classrooms.
Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.
Valenza, J. (2011). In My Network Confession…. Teacher Librarian, 39(2), 27-32.