Featured Post

Lessons Learned From Master Teachers

Article written by Kelly Tenkely for The Apple Check out The Apple for great articles, lesson plans, resources, educational news stories, and join in the conversation. See the original article here. Last week was teacher appreciation week.  Each year when this week rolls around, I am reminded of the amazing teachers I had in my life who helped shape me into the learner I am today.   In my life, my favorite teachers always seemed to land on the odd grade levels.  My first, third, and fifth grade teachers were particularly memorable.  These women were master teachers.  They  taught me some important lessons and modeled what it means to be a teacher. 1st Grade Mrs. Hebert Mrs. Hebert was a young teacher.  I am fairly sure that she was just out of college.  She had classroom management down to an art (a difficult feat with six year olds).  Mrs. Hebert made everything we learned an adventure.  One Monday morning, we walked into a darkened classroom to find an UFO at the center of the classroom.  It was flashing and making sounds, it was amazing.   There were glow in the dark stars scattered around the classroom.  She immediately had our attention and had us intrigued with the learning that was to take place that day.  We sat around the strange UFO in a circle and Mrs. Hebert led a conversation about where we thought the UFO could have come from.  We noticed strange purple rocks scattered all over the classroom and talked about what they could be.  One of the boys in the class spotted a book that had a rock that looked the same on the cover.  A few of us suggested that we read the book for clues about the strange space rocks and UFO. Mrs. Hebert handed out a class set of books (Space Rock by Susan Schade and Jon Buller) so that we could all read.  We read through the book together and discovered where the space rocks had come from.  Each one of us got our very own purple play-dough pet space rock.  We were thrilled.  I still have my space rock. As an adult looking back I realize that Space Rock is a leveled reader, there is nothing really special about this book at all.  It is a cute story but if we had just read the book in a reading group and answered some questions about it on a worksheet, I would not remember anything about this book.  With a little extra effort and preparation, Mrs. Hebert made the lesson memorable. What we learned that day was more than whatever phonemic awareness skill that was being touched on with the book.  We learned to love reading.  We learned that books can be enjoyable and answer questions that we have and make us use our imagination in new ways.  20 years later I remember a lot about this lesson and many lessons that Mrs. Hebert taught.  She was doing more than teaching us content skills, she was developing a love of learning. 3rd Grade Mrs. Graybill Mrs. Graybill started every year by sending her new students postcards telling us how excited she was to be teaching us that year.  She often bragged that she had the very best class in the school (I am positive that she told every class this same thing every year).  An amazing thing happens when you are told that you are the best class in the school, you start acting like the best class in the school.  We strived to please Mrs. Graybill.  Throughout the year Mrs. Graybill had us write her notes in our journals.  Sometimes she offered a suggestion on something we could tell her in our notes but we could write anything we wanted.  She responded to each and every note every week.  I remember reading Judy Blume’s the Pain and the Great One in class one day and writing Mrs. Graybill a note about how I feel like the Great One and my little brother was certainly a Pain.  She wrote back a thoughtful response about her brothers and how she didn’t always appreciate them when she was a kid but as adults they are great friends.  Mrs. Graybill made connections with her students.  She knew about our likes and dislikes and what made us nervous or scared.  She was able to tailor lessons to fit our needs because she truly knew our needs.  She made everyone feel like the most special member of the class.  At the beginning of fourth grade Mrs. Graybill sent each of her students a postcard telling us how much she enjoyed teaching us and how much she missed us.  Mrs. Graybill instilled a sense of self worth in us.  She made us believe that we could do anything. I don’t remember doing a lot of worksheets in Mrs. Graybills class.  Third grade can be a turning point in many schools where desk work increases.  Mrs. Graybill always found interesting ways to teach.  When we learned cursive handwriting she could have just given us practice worksheets, instead she wrote riddles on the board.  We would copy down the riddles in our notebooks, in our best cursive, and try to guess the answer to the riddles.  There was a riddle for each letter of the alphabet.  We absolutely loved this exercise and looked forward to handwriting practice every day.  At the end of the year we had a book of riddles to stump our families with.  I still have this riddle book that I made in third grade (thanks to mom for realizing its value and saving it) and I use it to this day to stump my students with riddles.   The kids love it; it’s become part of our daily routine.  Mrs. Graybill taught me that with a little creativity, mundane tasks, like practicing handwriting, can be fun and worth while. 5th Grade Mrs. Nelson Mrs. Nelson was amazing in so many ways.  Like Mrs. Graybill she constantly told us that we were the best class she had ever had.  We worked to make her proud.  Mrs. Nelson taught us important life lessons in unexpected ways.  One day we came in from recess to find loaves and loaves of bread piled high on her desk up front.  Behind the loaves were jars of peanut butter and jelly and several plastic knives, plates, and napkins.  Fifth graders are always thrilled when food is going to be involved.  Mrs. Nelson asked us to each write in our journals directions for making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  When we were finished, we would read our directions to her and she would make us a sandwich that we could eat.  The first student got up and eagerly read his directions for Mrs. Nelson, “Put peanut butter on the bread, then put on some jelly.  Put the pieces together.” Mrs. Nelson followed our directions exactly (think Amelia Bedelia here).  First she wiped her nose with her hand, then she stuck her fingers in the peanut butter and slathered it on both sides of the bread.  This was followed by a licking of the fingers and then a dunk into jelly to wipe on another piece of bread.  We were shocked to say the least.  As the class watched what she was doing we scribbled frantically in our notebooks to give more specific directions.  Wash your hands first.  Use a knife to spread the peanut butter on one face of the bread.   Put the peanut butter and jelly sides of the bread together.  Don’t lick your fingers.  It was great fun to see how everyone’s sandwiches turned out.  Some were more edible than others.  Mrs. Nelson taught us to be specific and intentional in our writing.  She made us think about processes and instructions. Mrs. Nelson always read us a chapter book after recess.  She had us enthralled with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Wish Giver, Wayside School is Falling Down, and many more.  We begged Mrs. Nelson to keep reading (she usually only read us a chapter a day).  She helped every one of her students develop a love of reading and stories.  She modeled reading for fun and enjoyment.  The librarian always knew what book Mrs. Nelson was reading to us because requests for that book skyrocketed. I have many great memories of my first, third, and fifth grade years of school.  These teachers went above and beyond the call of duty.  They put a lot of planning and love into their classrooms.  The payoff was incredible, a class of students who all felt like they were the best and brightest, who loved to learn, explore, and read.   I constantly use these incredible examples in my life to teach my students.  I don’t remember a lot about my second, fourth, and sixth grade years.  This is not because I wasn’t learning, but because the learning wasn’t as memorable and engaging.  It is my hope that every child gets to experience life with a master teacher (hopefully many of them).  To all of the master teachers out there, thank you!  Your impact reaches farther than you will ever know.

Read More

8 alternatives to Google Reader

Posted by admin | Posted in Blogs, For Teachers, professional development, Teacher Resources, web tools, Web2.0 | Posted on 12-06-2013

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


8 alternatives to Google Reader

I’ve been in mourning over Google’s decision to shut down Reader.  MOURNING.  Honestly, I love having a centralized location for all of my favorite blogs.  It is like my own customized newspaper delivered each morning.  I’ve been using Google Reader since about 2007, and in that time I’ve amassed an enormous collection of favorites.  Whenever I find something I want to remember or be able to go back and read, I Tweet it out and then immediately favorite it.  I can’t tell you how often I go to my Reader when I’m remembering something great that I favorited that I want to revisit or share.  Daily.

Google Reader is closing the door on July 1st.  I’ve been trying to pretend that this day isn’t coming.  Denial won’t stop it.  Today I decided to settle in and start going through my favorites to save them to my Pinterest boards.  I’ve found some great alternatives for Google Reader, but I have yet to find one that transfers both current RSS feeds and favorites.  I talked to Feedly on Twitter and they said that they are working on it.  I haven’t seen this feature added yet.  Not willing to lose all of those favorites, I’m going through the painstaking process of saving them elsewhere.  On the upside: I’m being reminded of the brilliance I’m surrounded by online.

If you are looking for a replacement RSS feed reader (say for your favorite blog…*ahem*) here are some great alternatives.

1. The Old Reader is in beta, it was built to be a replacement for Google Reader.  It looks a whole lot like the Google Reader you know and love.  For those super geeks (own it!) you can even use the same keyboard shortcuts.  This option is free but is currently browser-based only…no mobile apps yet.  Alas, that is where I do the majority of my reading.

2. Feedly is a good RSS reader alternative.  In addition to collecting your RSS feeds for you, it has a news suggestion algorithm that will suggest other articles that you will probably find interesting.  Great unless you have a reader like I do…then it becomes an endless rabbit hole that is hard to walk away from.  Feedly also has a great social aspect that makes it easy to share with friends and post to social networks.  With Feedly you can choose what type of layout you prefer. You can easily transfer all of your current subscriptions from Google Reader to Feedly.  Feedly comes as browser extension and mobile app.

3.  News Blur is similar to Google Reader, you can share articles, save for future reading, star them or start your own daily “burblog” of news stories that you want to share with others.  It comes in mobile app format.  Now the bad news: free accounts are capped at 64 blogs and 10 stories at a time (this would never do for me). Premium users pay $24 a year to subscribe to as many sites as they want.  The worse news: currently they aren’t allowing free users to sign up.  Dang. It.

4. Pulse lets you keep up on the blogs that you subscribe to, but it primarily recommends stories it thinks you will enjoy.  Pulse looks a little more like Feedly and will also let you import your Google Reader feed (mobile version only).  Articles can be saved, shared, browsed, sorted by category.

5. NetVibes is a RSS reader and a social aggregation service.  Basic accounts are free which will do what you need to follow your feeds.  You can add widgets like weather, Twitter, and top news stories to your NetVibe dashboard.  The bad news: there aren’t any mobile apps.

6. Feed Demon is not only an RSS reader, it also lets you set up keywords to be alerted about.  If a keyword appears in a feed (whether you subscribe to it or not) it will apear in your feed.  It also lets you subscribe to podcasts, it automatically stores them in a directory and makes it easy to save them to a mobile device.

7. Flipboard recommends feeds but also lets you subscribe to RSS feeds.  The layout is beautiful and looks like a magazine.  You can also add your social networks including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.  It brings your online life together in one place.  Favorites can be saved. Flipboard is available for the iPad, iPhone, Android, Kindle Fire and Nook.

8. Feedbin makes it easy to subscribe to new feeds by domain or by feed url. You can import your current feeds using the OPML import feature.  You can organize all of your feeds by Tags. Just like Google Reader, Feedbin has great keyboard shortcuts that will help you get through your news efficiently.  Feedbin is not free, it currently costs $2/month.  The biggest benefit (and the reason this will most likely be my choice) you can connect Feedbin to the Reeder app!!  I currently use the Reeder app to read my Google Reader feeds.  I absolutely LOVE Reeder, It is such a beautiful way to read, save, share, etc. all of my RSS feeds.  Reeder is still working out a solution for July 1st.  In the mean time, it is available for free in the iTunes app store and you can connect it to Feedbin.  Reeder is working out the ability to connect it to other readers as well.

RSS feeds are a great way to bring professional development to your fingertips ever day.  Don’t let the demise of Google Reader stop you from learning!

Comments (9)

Actually, Newsblur is letting free users sign up. Even though it says it isn’t, it does. I just created one for a friend the other day. I paid for my account. Well worth it. It is as fast as Google Reader ever was.

What about Feed Wrangler? I haven’t jumped ship on Google just yet butnthis is the service I’m considering using as a replacement. (And you’d haw to confirm this, but I thought could copy over favourites as well as feeds.)

(Sorry about dodgy iPad typing.)

I’m really happy for these guys – NOOWIT is not only an alternative to Google reader but a great app for getting news without the noise.

Try Feedspot. I really like its simplicity. I am pretty sure it imports all of your favorites too.

To lifelong learning!

I use pearltrees, it’s not a feed reader but when combined with Ifttt I get a pearl (online bookmark) of anything that I have starred in google reader. Saves me having to backup my favourites now.

Don’t forget Yoleo! (https://yoleoreader.com) :)

I feel the same as you — mourning the loss of Google Reader. For now, I’m testing out The Old Reader as I also do most of my reading on my browser. I tested out Feedly but they don’t support IE.

I love reading all of your insightful posts. Keep up the great work!

Check out http://www.hinto.co ! It’s not an RSS reader, but it’s highly visual and you can select which sites to keep up with, in real-time.

Write a comment