Pageflakes for Teachers. . .

Who’s using an RSS feed reader yet?

If you’re like the majority of my friends and family members, you probably haven’t even heard of a feed reader—and I hope you’ll take this digital dive soon primarily because it will save you tons of time and hassle! 

Basically, feed readers are free tools designed to help you to keep up with the new content posted on your favorite websites.  In a world where thousands of pages of new content are posted daily and sites are changed almost hourly, feed readers are becoming nothing short of essential for sifting through the "noise" and getting ready access to information of interest.

I use a feed reader to follow daily current events in the parts of the world that we study in class, to follow educational bloggers that I’m interested in and to follow classroom blogs of students from around the world.  My feed reader is the first (and sometimes only) place that I visit online every day because I can quickly find out what new information has been posted on the sites that I’m most interested in.   

Here’s a fun tutorial from the Commoncraft guys explaining RSS:

While there are literally dozens of different feed reader programs to choose from (Bloglines and Google Reader are two biggies), Pageflakes is my favorite primarily because it has a visual layout that I find easy to read and interesting to look at. 

What’s even better:  Pageflakes has been developing a teacher version of their tool just for us that includes an online grade tracker, a task list and a built in writing tutor.  My thinking is that as Pageflakes works to perfect its teacher product, this might become one of the first kid-friendly feed readers on the market.  I think what I like the best is that Pageflakes users can actually blog and create a discussion forum directly in their feed reader—making an all-in-one digital home for our students. 

I just finished doing a quick review of the teacher version of Pageflakes.  Here’s what I found: 

1.  Overall, I love the automatic content that Pageflakes provides as "Seed Flakes" for teachers (and possibly students) to select from.  Teachers will find many of the content options listed in the Pageflakes library to be very valuable.  I particularly liked the inclusion of several blogs being kept by teachers primarily because they will open the eyes of many educators to the professional development potential found in blogs.   

The vast majority of the "professional reading" that I do today is on blogs because the content is immediate, free and often far more practical than the content I get from journals.  Most teachers haven’t yet made that shift.  By including links to accomplished edubloggers, Pageflakes will open the eyes of teachers to this kind of information. 

2.  I also love the visual layout of Pageflakes—both the teacher edition and the "original" edition.  Having played with several different feed readers, I definitely think that Pageflakes will be the most approachable and attractive to teachers—-who will appreciate the visual cues they get in the list of new posts inside each "Flake" as well as the personalized color options that are possible.  While these kind of features  may not be important when serving other professionals, educators tend to be more artistic and expressive—-and the feed readers that will "hook" them need to cater to that reality. 

3.  I can share with you that Pageflakes has "hooked" several tech-challenged colleagues that I know!  I’ve been bragging about it for a few months now and caught the interest of two teachers in particular that I work closely with.  In less than five minutes of "instruction" from me, both had their own accounts up and running.  One uses it to keep track of daily current event websites—something that he teaches directly in class—and another uses it to keep up with blogs of favorite children’s authors. 

A third mentioned that Pageflakes was his "new crack" the other day—Good for Pageflakes…bad for the guy with "old crack!"

4.  One worry that I have in the content listings offered in the Pageflakes library is that there is not a separate section that is titled "Web 2.0 Tools."  Most of the teachers that will be drawn to Pageflakes are likely to have an interest in other digital tools that can be used in the classroom with students—-but few will have the time to find those sources themselves.  Sorting through a collection of educational tech bloggers and giving them an entire category in the Pageflake "seed flake" library would be a helpful addition to the teacher version of the site. 

 
5.  I also wonder if some form of "star rating" system on seed flakes is possible.  While the seed flakes that Pageflakes has included seem like a good start, the number of teachers that find each flake valuable will be important if they hope to capture the teacher market.  Most teachers won’t have the time to go exploring very far from the Pageflakes library on their own initially—-so if those items aren’t engaging to the educators that are signing up—-and if they can’t find sites that are valuable quickly—-we’ll start losing users. 

6.  I also hope that Pageflakes will start to divide up their list of "seed flakes" by content area.  Users will only be hooked when they know that coming to their feed reader each day is going to result in something valuable for their own teaching setting and content area. 

Pageflakes could facilitate that process by providing separate lists of websites for reading, math, science, social studies, technology, the arts…etc.  That way, teachers could quickly access resources that would be immediately useful in their classrooms.  While the generalist sites that they’ve provided may do that once in awhile, a more targeted approach to providing flakes by content area may be more useful to novice feed reader users.

Interested yet?

I hope so—-because Pageflakes may just make your online life more efficient.  Twenty years from now, I doubt that anyone will be able to truly function without a feed reader, so why bother waiting any longer!

 

9 thoughts on “Pageflakes for Teachers. . .

  1. Fire Detection

    awesome I use feed reader for my college projects. all the weeks they leave us a project and with the feed reader is not necesary spend a lot of hours looking information on the internet

  2. Gregory Louie

    Hi Bill,
    I have one question about Pageflakes.
    Then I’d like to suggest a site for you and your readers to check out. I think it demonstrates an outstanding use Pagecasts.
    I use Firefox 3.0 which has a built-in application that allows me to add an RSS feed directly into My Yahoo. The add RSS button appears in the address bar, which makes it dead simple to find. Not having to search the blog itself for the appropriate [Add to …] icon saves me tons of time.
    I can’t find anyway to change the default action to add the RSS feed to Pageflakes. So for now, I’m staying with My Yahoo!.
    If you are any of your readers have a workaround, I’d appreciate you posting it.
    FYI:
    http://www.pageflakes.com/ambassadortochina/22509356/

  3. Sharon Williams

    Hi Bill,
    I am a gifted/technology facilitator for a middle school in Scotland County and I have been running across a lot of your work while searching for ideas on how to utilize blogging for students. Your prior experiences and tips for success have saved me many hours wasted planning and instruction. Through my journey, one of my biggest problems has been finding student friendly blogs for my students to join. Your pageflakes is a great starting place! As a result of this continued challenge, I have started a group in Diigo entitled “Kids Blogging”. It is a resource list of safe, user friendly blogs for K-12 students. I also took to liberty to include some of your recommended pages. Thanks for all you do for education!!

  4. Lee Kolbert

    Bill,
    Once again, I return to your blog for resources for the teachers in my district. Last week, I referred to one of your VoiceThreads on our PalmBreeze TV Show (I’ll send you the link when it gets posted on YouTube) and this week I’m showing PageFlakes. You’re the man, Bill. Thank you!
    ~Lee

  5. Nadine N

    I switched from bloglines to google reader recently, and now I’m on the pageflakes. I tried pageflakes a while back but I didn’t set it up as a reader like you have done for my favorite edubloggers. I copied your teacher and admin bloggers pages on to my pageflakes and now I think I really have a useful professional development tool. Thanks for your help and guidance in a great post.

  6. Adam

    The million dollar question. How do we get them to read blogs. Once again it goes back to relevance for them. I would suggest finding one or two blogs (interest in school or outside of school) and getting them setup that way. Revisit it about three weeks later to make suggestions or discuss a blog they are following.

  7. PDonaghy

    Hi Bill
    I’m using igoogle and protopage, but I’ll have to revisit pageflakes – given your findings. Have to agree with Paul though – the challenge is getting the “tech-challenged” teachers involved.
    Patricia
    PS. You might be interested in adding your blog information to the International Edubloggers Directory at http://edubloggerdir.blogspot.com

  8. Paul C

    Bill,
    As always, I thoroughly appreciate the depth and style of your writing. Personally, I prefer the layout and utility of Netvibes for my own start page, but I like the “portable nature” of being able to send a Pageflakes page to someone else.
    Ironically, those educators who are “tech-challenged” probably don’t read blogs yet anyway and won’t see this post. Is there another way to pull in those who would benefit from feed readers?

  9. Patrick

    Bill,
    Just sent out your current events flakes to the social studies teachers in the high school and middle school that I work with. I had introduced Pageflakes to a group of them about a year ago, but I don’t know how well it took. Your application of them in the classroom might be enough to push some of them over the edge towards using them.

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