Random Thoughts

My aggregator of choice

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Pat Kennedy left a comment yesterday on the RSS in Plain English post.

Which aggregator is conducive to a classroom environment Bloglines or Google Reader? Organizing feeds by disciplines is important to me. Are they advertisement free?

There are a lot of great aggregators out there finding one that is right for you and your students is like shopping for a computer. You need to check out the options and see which one ‘fits’

Bloglines: A great ad free RSS reader. Easy to use and set up and I believe the easiest place to get people started when first learning about aggregators and RSS. It was the first to really take off and is still a great basic aggregator of content. You can organize feeds into folders.

Google Reader: Coming on strong as they do the Google thing and continue to add options and features. It loads quickly and has some features that Bloglines doesn’t have. The best thing about Google Reader is you can import it to your iGoogle page to become more like Pageflakes or Netvibes. If you’re school has students create a Google account (which I’m thinking schools should do!) than this is a great option. You can organize feeds in folders.

Pageflakes: Coming on strong as one of my favorites. It differs from Bloglines and Google Reader in that it has “Widgets” which are other items you can add to your page other than just plain RSS feeds. Pageflakes has a great little Podcast player that you can add and use to listen to podcats, you can add the weather, news, a search and other widgets and really customize your start page to be the information center you want it to be. If Netvibes continues to be slow in China when I return after this summer, this will be where i move to. Quick loading and clean easy design. You organize feeds by tabbed pages.

Netvibes: My personal favorite and a quick look at what people are using to subscribe to the blogs that I run show that more people are using Netvibes now than Bloglines. Netvibes was the first to use widgets to really make a customized start page on the web that allowed you to import your own RSS feeds. They continue to add widgets that allow you to add functionality to your page. They have also done the Web 2.0 thing and opened up their API to the community allowing users to create widgets for the site. As the community made widgets become stable they are added as options. You can search for all kinds of great widgets to really make the page the way you want. Pat also wants to organize her feeds by disciplines. Netvibes has a tab feature (so does Pageflakes) that allows you to add tabs to your page so each tab can be a different discipline. You can also share a tab with others. I set up students with Netvibes pages and then share a tab that has all the RSS feeds I want them to have. I use Netvibes with students because they are a customizable generation and Netvibes lets you customize everything. With teachers I use Bloglines, Google Reader or Netvibes based on the level of the teacher and their technology skills.

This is only 4 of many great aggregators out there. What’s your favorite? What’s the features that make you stay with your reader?

[tags]rss, aggregator, bloglines, googlereader, pageflakes, netvibes[/tags]

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I started blogging in 2005 and found it such a powerful way to reflect and share my thinking about technology, this generation, and how we prepare students for their future not our past.


  1. Which aggregator is conducive to a classroom environment Bloglines or Google Reader?

    Hi Jeff, my classes all have blogs this year and we are using the open source browser
    Flock, because it has a built-in aggregator. Based on Firefox, the students could import all their bookmarks, history and cookies so set up was really easy. It also meant that we avoided having to set up yet another account and it has features that work well with blogging and wikis. There is a new version coming out soon I think. BTW I have no association with the company, but think it is a useful classroom tool.

  2. Good morning Jeff…

    Thanks for the breakdown of the aggregators of choice that are out there. I myself am a blogline user, with feeds subscribed to at about the 70ish level. One of the reasons I’ve not changed to another one is that I would need to re do all the feeds. When setting up with say netvibes or pageflakes, is there an import option or are we stuck at needing to resubscribe to all these feeds?

    Seeking the Wisdom of the Ages.

  3. I think I have gone through them all. I even use the IE subscribe button when I am in a pinch. I continue to use Netvibes because of simplicity. It lets you know how many new posts are availble for each feed. I will say that Netvibes has actually cut down what I read. I find if I don’t get captured by the title, I don’t read the post. “my flight to Pittsburgh” gets deleted where “thoughts on creative professional development” gets read twice.

    I am not allowed to say a whole bunch but the new release of pageflakes is very cool. It will be availble later this month. You will want to go back check it out.


  4. Hi Jeff,

    My district is going to be using Pageflakes in September. Some of the things that led me to this decision:

    1. Pageflakes will allow us to handpick available widgets. This is going to rock when the students create their own pages – teachers won’t have to worry about inappropriate flakes.

    2. I am told that Pageflakes will release an admin panel for schools to control the availability widgets – that’s just cool – but not ready yet.

    3. Like the other products you mentioned – you can use third party widgets (widgetbox, grazr, etc.)

    4. You can subscribe to another page and creating templates is easy – this has useful applications for teachers who want to prepare resources for students, and more powerfully, for students who want to prepare resources for other students. Sure beats a PowerPoint presentation!

    We’ll see how it goes, but I’m excited about it. I think we will start by encouraging teachers to set up pages for their classes. Once they understand how it works, hopefully by November, we will roll out pages for students to build.

  5. I like Google Reader used with iGoogle. My favorite thing about it is the new Google Gears functionality that makes your feeds readable offline. I think that this is functionality that Web 2.0 needs to be better suited to educational uses.

  6. I am a Google Reader user through and through. The reader panel is extremely useful and functional, with the ability to tag feeds. (That way, the NYTimes Educatofeed can go in the Education folder and the “Big Media” folder). Feeds and individual items can be starred to be shard in a public feed if you want. In addition, there are some very interesting analytics features which help you see what you have been reading and starring which has helped me cut back on useless feeds.
    Finally, and most importantly, is the simple integration with Google Apps. If your school uses Google Apps, (and if it doesn’t then it should), you can create a default start page with recommended feeds. However, students can then customize it to their tastes. Great tool!

  7. Wow…
    Jeff thank you for the email response the other day. I just imported all my blogline feeds into netvibes, now it’s just a matter of formatting them to make me happy. We’ll see how it goes, but what I see so far I LIKE!

    Thanks again!


  8. I always come back to bloglines after having tried all the others. The reason? I like the fact that I can save a post as new so that it never leaves my aggregator. I can find it again. I also like the fact that I can email it to someone else right there.

  9. With Google Gears coming, I think Google has one more App in their suite that makes a Google Account invaluable. We create one with all our students from middle school up!

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  12. We have tried introducing our students to iGoogle and the Google reader. While there are some limitations with sharing bookmarks and RSS feeds, the collaborative tools such as google docs, spreadsheets and presentations are great for students. Best of all, they can access all of these things and more through one account on one site. It is a great way to help students organize activity and research on the web.

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  15. Hi Jeff,
    It’s 2010 and I’m finally working on adding this kind of thing into my science classes. Have your assessments made in this post in the past 3 years? Which aggregator are you using with students these days?

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