Sunday, August 22, 2010

Staying Updated: Google Reader & Google Fast Flip

NOTE: I am not affiliated with Google or the blog Free Technology for Teachers in any way, shape, or form. I simply use a lot of Google Products and read Free Technology for Teachers for great information.

I strive to remain up-to-date on health topics that are making headlines in the news. I often incorporate current events into my health classes whenever I can, in order to bring a little "real world" information into my classroom. I use Google Reader as an RSS aggregator to keep myself informed of information that is being published from a variety of resources: newspapers, blogs, government websites, etc. I have multiple sections, including one for "education" and another for "health" related information. I browse through the feeds as soon as I get into my classroom each morning to see if there is anything I can use during the day.

For those who don't know (Hi, Mom!) an RSS aggregator is basically one-stop shopping for customizable news information. News from a variety of sources (websites, blogs, etc) is easily categorized based on how I want to view it. I have thirteen different feeds for education and health, which is definitely enough information for what I am trying to do. The one downfall of not including more feeds is that there is in increased possibility that I will miss a story I might be able to use in class. However, adding additional feeds from all over the country becomes quite cumbersome and there would simply be too many stories for me to sort through. I don't read each and every one now; I scan and read if I am interested. My point is that there becomes a point where there would be an information overload and where time starts being wasted.

Enter Google Fast Flip. I found out about Google Fast Flip (and a lot of other things!) by reading the excellent blog Free Technology for Teachers by Richard Byrne. Google Fast Flip provides news articles in a visual display that the user can scroll through for a quick scan of what's popular in the news. You can select different categories, such as Sports or Health. Fast Flip shows news stories from all over the country, covering local and national news, which allows me to have a greater depth of information without cluttering my RSS feeds. Fast Flip gives me the opportunity to read news from sources I would otherwise not read.

I selected the "Health" section and was immediately able to skim articles from major news outlets and websites. If an article interested me, I clicked on it to read it in depth. In a time where everyone seems to need more than twenty four hours in a day, Google Fast Flip is a great way for me to supplement the information I obtain through RSS. I can easily access this website in class and show my students how health is always in the news, and maybe select and article or two to talk about. I can have students use Fast Flip for their "Health in The News" assignments, and the variety of sources can expose them to different writing styles and opinions. Students could also compare and contrast assignments from different newspapers. Try it out for a quick visualization of what's popular in the news!

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