flipboardOK…so let me clarify that title. I honestly think textbooks are on their way out…or at least I hope they are. Really it should read “Flipboard as core curation artifact for classrooms” but that wouldn’t have you here reading now would it. 🙂

I’m in love with Flipboard. I have been for awhile now….it’s one of the first apps that gets downloaded on all devices. But lately as I’ve been thinking about the death of textbooks and what might replace them I have started to dig deeper into Flipboard and really think it has a ton of potential to be that core curation body of knowledge for teachers and students.

Why Flipboard:

  • Can be installed on all devices! I mean all devices. Windows, Mac, iDevices, Android. That by itself gives it a top marks!
  • Beautiful layout: Design matters…and Flipboard knows that. Every time I show Flipboard to a teacher or student they instantly love it…what’s not to love. Big pictures, magazine flare, beautiful transitions.
  • Connected: You can connect Flipboard to a ton of different accounts and at the same time connect it to hashtag conversations giving you all kinds of different ways to bring information together in one space.

Flipboard Magazines:

This really is the game changer. Flipboard rolled out magazines a while a go. Allowing a user to create a magazine and “Flip” things into it. Others can subscribe to your magazine and see what you find interesting. You can check out my magazine here ——————————————————->

So basically a teacher would have a flipboard account….set up a magazine for thier class and then “flip” all the articles, resources, etc they want students to access into the magazine. The students subscribe to the magaizne and have all that content dispalyed beautifully on their screen….no matter what that screen is.

Class as Content Curators:

Of course….that would work but I think we can go farther. I don’t want the teacher finding all the content for the course. I want students to have the ability to add content to their “textbook” as well. Content that we can discuss in the classroom, that can spark conversation…the real reason we come together..to be social. What if we could have all the students in a class adding to the “textbook” have them find things that interest them on a given topic and allow them to “flip” that into our “textbook” as well. Flipboard allows that too…where you can invite others to add to your Flipboard magazine. Game changer!!!!

But Wait There’s More!

Because ever student is going to need a Flipboard account to make this work they also will be able to create their own boards around content they enjoy. The class magazine (aka textbook) becomes part of that but so does other things that interest them. Also…..because you can search a twitter hashtag and add that to your Flipboard. A class hashtag now becomes part of the conversation. Where kids can tweet something, hashtag it with something like #engp1ju (English Period 1 Jeff Utecht) and have all that content in their new “textbook” as well.

Social and Academic

I talk a lot about breaking down the barriers of social and academic. That this is the world we live in where we work and are social at the same time. A Flipboard account would allow students to have both. A student could have a Flipboard account that had:

  • Class Magazine (textbook)
  • Class Twitter hashtag
  • School Twitter hashtag
  • Their Instagram account
  • Their Facebook account
  • Google+ Account (School or/and personal)
  • Their own Twitter feed
  • News from things that interest them
  • Their Tumblr account

[box] Bonus: Check out the Flipboard tutorials here to get started![/box]

Easy Sharing

Then there is the sharing component. I read something in my Tumblr stream that applies to what we’re talking about in class and I can…with two clicks….add that to our class textbook.

Every student is using Chrome of course (they are right?) so we add the Flipboard extension to Chrome and again in two clicks students can add any website they are on, any article they find to the class textbook.

Or we share it to the class twitter hashtag. Or we share it to our personal account. Our personal and academic lives overlap and what we have is……just life.

If you know of a class…or your class is doing this…please let me know. Cause I think this has HUGE potential to bring everything together. I’m even starting to wonder if it would be worth pursuing for COETAIL? To show teachers who we can create a “textbook” based on the latest things people are reading, tweeting, finding, and sharing. Kim and I might need to have a conversation. 🙂

Photo Credit: jypsygen via Compfight cc

Now don’t get me wrong, the announcement that Google Reader will no longer be after July 1st came as a shocker….but then again…not really.

We know where Google is headed…everything tied to Google+ and Google+ integration across all apps. Which now that I see that and treat the Google ecosystem that way, well, it turns out it is a pretty nice feature.

But what this means is that apps that don’t “fit” into Google+ are probably on the outs (worried about Google Sites as well…who else uses them besides education?).

So instead of getting all freaked out and sad or nervous, which is the tone of most the e-mails I have received……let’s get excited!

First off Google Reader was not the first RSS Reader. I personally wouldn’t even put it into the “Early Adopter” era of RSS Readers. I had 4 others before I moved to Google Reader. But it is safe to say that Google Reader pretty much became the main RSS Reader of most people. Not because of its ease of use, but rather because it has an open API which allows sites like Feed.ly and Flipboard to connect to it.

Secondly there has been very little innovation in the RSS Reader area for some time. By Google now dumping Reader, it has left a big hole in the middle of the tech world and that is where the excitement comes in. For the first time in a long time, we’re going to see some innovation in the RSS Reader area. There are engineers, companies, and programs I’m sure that are already working on some new solutions for us all. We have until July 1st, so let’s not panic and see what these innovative people come up with. It is going to mean some playing around of new systems but who doesn’t like to geek out a little now and then?

Here are a couple of the things I will be looking for in my next Reader:

  • Web-based with offline support: Much like Google Docs now works and syncs seamlessly online and offline via the Chrome browser, I want this in my next Reader
  • Ability to have one beautiful reading experience on all my devices (iOS and Android). Really enjoying the experience of the Google+ app on all the devices….seems so sleek and fluid
  • Ability to comment right from app: Not sure if this can be done but would love if I could read a blog post and comment right from the app. Even if this functionality was only for the major blogging platforms (WordPress and Blogger) that would be a start and a HUGE benefit to everyone. Don’t even know if this is possible but it would be powerful for sure.
  • Ability to share with social-networks
  • Exit strategy: Have to be able to import/export OPML files like other readers.

What functions would your dream RSS Reader have? It’s time to dream and be innovative.

If you are building a new RSS Reader and are looking for beta testers…..shoot me an e-mail and I’d be happy to be a tester and give feedback. Actually if you need it, I have hundreds of educators you can beta test on over at COETAIL.

I’m a few hours away from calling a taxi and starting the 17 hour trip to Portland, Oregon (via Seattle of course) for the ITSC11 Conference e. I’ll be doing three sessions. Blended Classrooms, Blogs as E-Portfolios, and 10 Digital Tools for Digital Educators.

It’s this last session that I always have the hardest time with. What 10 digitals tools should educators know about? There are so many and depending on the attendees, you never know what people really want. That’s why this session usually ends up being a great discussion starting with “What do you want to know about?” and off we go.

As I’ve been thinking about the session I keep coming back to how important RSS is to the web. What seems like a such a simple piece of the larger web, this little bit of technology pushes and pulls information around the web behind the sense so gracefully that you probably use it in one form or another everyday without realizing it. Yet, if you can understand it, it becomes a very powerful way to push and pull information around the web where you want it to go. 

Apple, iTunes and Podcasters have made a living off of RSS. Ever wonder why most podcasts are on a blog? Because blogs come with RSS technology built in and iTunes Podcasts run off of RSS feeds. When you “Subscribe” to a podcast in iTunes you’re just subscribing to that podcasts RSS feed. iTunes simply delivers the content to your computer. 

RSS is a push and pull technology. It allows you to push and pull content around the web with ease. Many people don’t use RSS Readers anymore with them being replaced by Twitter streams, yet the use of RSS goes beyond just pulling content to you.

Here are some ways that I’m using RSS at my school and in my professional life to make things easier and to tie things together. 


COETAIL is a 5 graduate class certificate program that Kim and I run here in Asia (more on the explosion of this program soon). For each cohort we run we set up a blog such as this one I set up for the cohort in Taipei. Part of the problem I was having was when I found content to share with the participants I needed a way to push that information to this blog without going there, logging in and writing a blog post. Using the FeedWordPress Plugin that takes the content in an RSS feed and turns it into a post I now have a way to pull information I share on the web to the site.

Next was finding an RSS feed that was simple and quick and didn’t take much time to use. I decided to use Tumblr as a way to quickly gather web clipping I wanted to save all in one spot. Next I came up with a tagging system. Most blogging systems and even social bookmarking sites have an RSS feed for every tag. Tumblr does and it also has a fantastic Chrome Browser (one of the 10 tools) extension that works great. Now I have a quick way to get information to the different cohorts. Once I find something I want to share I click the Tumblr extension which automatically grabs the URL and the title of the webpage I’m on. I quickly add a description, click on the advance button and add my tags. If I want the information to go to the Taipei site I use the tag coetail@tas. If I want the information to got to the ISB site I use coetail@isb. If I want it to go to all the coetail blogs I simply use the tag coetail. 

Within seconds I can push this content out to the web on Tumblr and then pull it back into different blogs based on tags. 

ISB Blogs:

Using this same idea, students have to write a reflection about their GCW Trips (Global Citizen’s Week) that we went on last week. The trip leaders don’t have all the student blog addresses and we want the students to own the reflection, we want it to become part of their learning/eporfolio here at ISB. Using the FeedWordPress Plugin on our WordPress MultiSite install I created a tag for each trip. Students write their reflection on their blog and tag the blog post with the specific tag for their trip. I then set up a blog for each trip, grabbed the RSS feed for that specific trip tag and pulled all the blog posts into one blog that teachers can easily read and grade.

Here’s the idea:

URL to sitewide tag: http://blogs.isb.ac.th/blog/tag/gcwmekok/

The Feed for the tag: http://blogs.isb.ac.th/blog/tag/gcwmekok/feed

Where all these posts end up: http://blogs.isb.ac.th/gcw-mekok-village/

One great feature of the FeedWordPress Plugin is you can have the link to the post send you back to the original source. So if you want to leave a comment on a student blog post click on the title and it will take you to that student’s blog where you can leave the comment. Again keeping the student in control of their content.

This setup could be used in a number of ways. You could create a class blog that basically acts like an RSS reader. Students blog about your class, tag their blogs for your class with a specific term and you and the rest of the world get all the information in one spot, yet the students retains ownership of the content.

How about this….every tag in Diigo has an RSS feed: http://www.diigo.com/rss/user/Jutecht/qrcodes

You could connect your Diigo account to your Twitter account so that every time you share a link on Twitter it pushes that link to Diigo where it’s bookmarked (directions here). Once there you can push the RSS feed of the specific tag you use where ever you want it. In a Moodle, on a Blog, a Google Site…..anything that reads an RSS feed could then display this information. Think about this for a second…..one click to Twitter and you push content to Diigo which pushes it out to a blog. One click….three sites get the information and you share with others across networks. 

I’m sure you can think of countless other ways to use this in the classroom….it really is a technology worth learning and is a basis for many things on the web today.

Netvibes.com has been my aggregator of choice for years now. So much so that thinking of changing to another platform at this point makes my head spin. I’ve tried Pageflakes.com for a time and even Google Reader/ iGoogle. To each their own and I’m obviously a netvibes guy. Last summer I wrote a post comparing different aggregators as I was thinking there might be something better.

Today thought I wanted to take Netvibes one step farther. While in Shanghai the 5th grade teachers there set every student up with an account and was able to push content to them by sharing whole tabs of RSS feeds and widgets.

Our 5th grade teachers here in Bangkok are now in the process of setting every student up with a blog for reflective learning. The teachers and students needed an easy way to find and read each others blogs. Netvibes was the perfect solution. It allows you to share specific pages of your RSS feed to the public. Giving you a public URL that can be accessed by anyone. Even better, each tab is it’s own URL so you can link to that specific tab in the site. Here’s how I did it (click on a picture to enlarge):

Netvibes Class Page by you.

1. Create an account at Netvibes.com

2. Create a new tab for your class and name it something that is easy to remember. I used the last name of the 5th grade teachers.

Netvibes Create Tab by you.

3. Next it’s time to load in the RSS feeds into the tab. There are two ways to do this.

  • You can copy and paste the RSS URL from each blog into the Add a feed section under Add content
Netvibes add a feed by you.

  • Or you can install the FireFox extension that allows you to add feeds right from the FireFox toolbar.
2009-08-19_1625 by you.

4. Once you have your feeds on the page the way you like (you can simply drag and drop each widget), the next step is to make your page public so that you can link to it from your blog or anywhere else you put the hyperlink. The nice thing is you can name your public page what ever you like. I named the 5th grade page isbg5: http://www.netvibes.com/isbg5

Netvibes Public Pages by you.

5. That’s pretty much it. There are also other fun widgets you can put on your page. You’ll notice that I’ve embedded another web page that the students and teachers use to share links. Now that we have the Netvibes page created and made public we can link it to the class blogs.

I’ll use Chrissy Hellyer’s class blog as an example (and if you’re not following her you should be!). Using the WordPress plugin Page Link To I created a new page on Chrissy’s blog and linked it to her class tab on Netvibes located at: http://www.netvibes.com/isbg5#Hellyer (We have a two WordPress MU installs at our school. One for teacher sites and one for student blogs)

Link to WP blog by you.

Now when the students or parents, or anyone for that matter visits the class blog they are one click away from the RSS feed of every student. Next step will be to have each student do the same on their own personal blog. Using the same plugin and creating a page with a link to their class site.

What I also like about this is it helps to extend the conversation outside the classroom walls. We’ll start with the six 5th grade classes here at school being able to use this Netvibes site to read and respond to each other across classes. We can then simply add the RSS feeds of other classes and have student reading those as well. Of course as we start to connect with other classes around the world they have a one stop shop as well to all the 5th grade blogs (about 100 when we get done). Not a bad way to help other students find what they are looking for as well. 😉

Of course you don’t have to stop there. You could create a tab for current news, or find sites with RSS feeds that talk about events that you are studying. There are endless possibilities of how you use Netvibes in your class. On the general page you’ll see I even found a Flickr Creative Commons Search box for students to safely search for Creative Commons images right from their Netvibes page…..something we’re teaching them to do next week!

We’ll see where else this takes us as we continue to build our little 5th grade Netvibes site. I encourage you to get in and get messy with it…there are a ton of things you can do with it.


aaahhhhh……I sit here in the open air lounge of the Magellan Resort, a soft breeze is blowing off the ocean as I over look the pool below and out across the bay to three islands. It’s gonna be a wonderful sunset tonight. I’m telling you overseas conferences are really hard….I mean it. 🙂

I’m continuing to think about the Web and how we use it to connect. Maybe this is all for nothing…but I can’t stop thinking about it.

When it comes to building social networks or online communities I think it’s clear to understand what you are and who you are trying to build the site for and what you want them to do.

For example I helped to build the community site for the EARCOS Teacher’s Conference I am now at. I choose to use a wiki for a couple of reasons.

1. Not everyone here is tech savvy….the tool of least resistance.
2. The conference doesn’t need all of the features of say a Ning or full social network.
3. Less is more.

The wiki is meant to serve only one purpose really; to create an easy way for presenters to upload handouts, documents, and such to participants of their sessions. Before this year presenters would forward their handouts to EARCOS who dedicated a person to upload the documents to the conference website. The issue became of course that people would send multiple updates of their handouts creating work for someone else to manage those documents.

My work around….put presenters in control of their own handouts. Using a wiki was the easier way to do this. Create a page for each presenter, give them accounts that allow them to upload, and get out of the way.

So far the website is growing with over 120 members of 1100 conference goers joining the site before the conference even begins tomorrow. Not bad for something that is brand new to this conference.

Of course the wiki can do much more than just hold documents….it allows people to connect to each other…or is that connect to content?

In this case I believe the wiki serves the purpose to connect people to content. It is a network of users looking for, sharing, and using content created by others. Through this common content they will (hopefully) connect to people who have the same interests as them. Whether it be someone in the same session, or just someone they happen to meet within this community.

My hope: They came for the content and will find people to connect to.

That’s different than how some networks are created. Some networks are about the content and through that shared content you find people. Other social networks start with connecting people and through those connections you find content.

Of course there are no clear cut lines here and it’s all one big ball of grey.

It’s almost:

What came first the person or the content?

When you create a Personal Learning Network it’s about both. You follow content you are passionate about but also people you know or want to connect with.

When people start using Twitter they get stuck in not knowing who to follow…not what. Twitter is about people at its roots, not about the CNNs or the BKK News. You don’t follow “The President” you follow Barack Obama.

RSS Readers are different, they allow you to follow content. A Google News search for a current topic. A specific RSS feed for a sports team, or a blog with relevant information. Through these feeds we get to know people, what they are like, their voice online, and over time we consider them friends as if we know them.

When I started my RSS reader I followed David Warlick, Will Richardson, Clarence Fisher, Dean Shareski, Tim Lauer, and Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach not because I knew who they were but because I liked their content and what they had to say….over time they have become friends, people I know and now, I follow them because of who they are.

When we are creating social networks I think it’s worth taking some time to reflect on what you hope to do with it. Classroom 2.0 is about connecting people. The content there is great, but it’s the connecting of people that makes that social network so powerful.

In the end I agree with Christopher….maybe I’m over thinking this and really what it’s about is learning to filter information, whether that is a person or content. The skill of understanding how data flows on the Internet and how you can make it work for you is a powerful tool.

Example: I created the Twitter hash tag #ETC09 for the conference I’m at. I then went into Tweetdeck and started a new search for #ETC09. Now I have the latest tweets just for this conference. I did the same for #gr8t as a way to mind the data of that network as well. Those are two of my columns in my tweetdeck…all the rest are based on people.

How do you connect: People first or Content first?

I leave tomorrow for the EARCOS Teachers Conference (Twitter hash and web tag #ETC09) where I’ll be giving four presentations.

My first one is on Networks and Communities and although my Twitter Network has pointed out to me this is not a new presentation for myself…I do feel like there is something different. I’ve pushing myself to think deeper about personal networks and online communities and I need to be clear about my message and what I believe before I step into the room…or at least clear enough so that those in the room can help me push my own thinking on the subject.

Ben Grundy via Twitter helped me when we started talking about RSS vs Twitter.

RSS is about finding content, Twitter is about finding people

Not sure about that statement but it’s one I put out on Twitter and as I write this post is still being bounced around. Like others I find myself using Twitter for many different purposes including finding content…but I followed people first…not the content.

In past presentations I have focused most of my time on using RSS Feeds for both learning and teaching and less time on Twitter. Has the time come for this to be reversed? Is the “Nearly Now” taking over the reader?

More to come as I continue to think….your thoughts welcome!

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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As I’ve been reading the book Knowing Knowledge the concept that George Siemens presents of offloading content and information into the network is finding a place with me.

I’ve been thinking about this for days now and how my netvibes page has become my network of information. No longer do I have to learn something just in case, but instead the skill of being able to find information when I need it is what I need to learn how to do.

Today was a great example. I’m getting a teacher all excited about creating digital stories. We were talking about me coming into the classroom to teach the students how to create the stories when I remembered that I really don’t know the ins and outs of Photostory3, the program we’ll be using. But I do know where to go to find that information. So a quick check of my PLN and my network of information and I found my del.icio.us bookmark to David Jakes Photostory 3 Tutorials.

It’s this notion of offloading information into the network that makes, in my opinion, RSS feeds to be the #1 best web 2.0 tool for everyday users, and should be the #1 tool we start with when teaching teachers. Once you are connected to nods of information, and understanding how those nods create a personal network for you, do you take the next step and start becoming a nod for others.

It would be interesting to see how many people started reading and collecting their nods of information before they became a nod themselves. I remember setting up a Bloglines account and adding feeds. Once I saw how amazingly cool this new tool was I was hooked and 3 weeks later I started this blog. I wanted to take this new network of information I was creating and add to it, remix thoughts, and add my voice to the conversation. Some people feel that way, others just read or read and comment using their network. Blogging isn’t for everyone (as much as I push everyone to do it) some people just don’t feel comfortable with it. (Fair enough, I don’t feel comfortable reading books)

So as my first semester technology classes come to a close I’m starting to think about how I want second semester to run. I’m dropping Moodle all together in favor of the WordPress MU site I just finished setting up earlier today, and of course I have a blog on the new network as well. (Just what I needed….another blog). The first couple sessions of class we will set up our personal learning network. We’ll probably use netvibes as I have found kids really like the interface and being able to add other tabs for themselves once they get into it is a plus. Once we have our network and our nods on that network established we’ll set up blogs. I’m looking forward to this, the possibilities for students to make more digital stories and embed them in their blogs, to create podcasts for assignments, oh the fun.

On thing that I started doing this semester was taking the first 10 minutes of every class for students to read through their network (RSS aggregator via Elgg). We then do a “What’s New” session where we talk about anything cool the students found while they were reading. Everything from the latest music release, to Google buying YouTube have been topics. The students enjoy it, and we get to discuss different items relevant to them every class period. If I were a Language Arts teacher, this would definitely be a daily routine. Think of the exposure these students are getting to the written word. CNN, BBC, and TechCrunch are three very popular sites the kids get their news from. Some days I give student time to write on their blogs about the news they’ve found, why they found it interesting and what it means to them. Being in a culturally diverse class makes it even more fascinating. As one boy from America follows the New England Patriots so we frequently get updates on how his team is doing. One of my Filipino girls follows the news out of the Philippines, another out of India.

It’s this notion of moving knowledge to the network that should relax some people. I get teachers all the time come to me and say “I can’t possibly learn it all” and you shouldn’t. Allow the network to work for you, we are still caught thinking we need to “know it all” when what we really need is to “Know how to find it”. That’s a change for education. As George Siemens put it:

The content needs to be findable at the learner’s point of need, as compared to learning being provided just-in-case. p. 37

We need to help students and teachers build these networks of findable knowledge and quit teaching just-in-case knowledge. Your network will gather the information for you…you just need to know how to find it.

[tags]Knowing Knowledge, George Siemens, offloading Knowledge, nods, network, RSS, photostory3[/tags]

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