I love Google Reader and use it every day. Instead of having to find interesting things to read, interesting things come to me.
But when I tried to explain the concept of Google Reader to my seniors, they looked at me like I was crazy.
Only two had heard of it.
So I backtracked and asked about RSS feeds. That didn’t go very well, either. “You know,” I said, “the little orange icon you see on websites?”
I stepped back some more and asked my students where they got their information, where they got their news.
The “information” question was easy: their friends, their parents — sometimes, their teachers. As for news, a few of my students said they watched the news on TV. Two said they got their news from their mom. One had an app on his phone. Others checked out the Yahoo homepage (which tonight featured a UFC knockout). By the way, not one student said Facebook or Twitter.
My conclusion: There’s not a whole lot of reading going on. And Google Reader is in no way the immediate answer.
Instead, I need to think of a better way to get my students to read the news. When I was in high school, I read The San Francisco Chronicle every morning. Then I graduated to The New York Times when I got to college. I didn’t always know what I was reading, but I kept reading anyway.
In other words, to become an avid reader of the news, you have to build a relationship with individual news sources first.
Now that we have the Internet, though, that doesn’t have to be one publication. It can be a news aggregator, like Google News. But the problem is that most of the most compelling services, like Flipboard and Zite and Feedly, are either iOS-based or, yes, dependent on Google Reader.
We can’t expect our students, as news newbies, to curate their own content on the Web without first building the habit of reading.
I want to make sure that before my students graduate and go off into the world, they know that they’re supposed to read and follow the news, by any means necessary.
In fact, it gets me thinking about a possible current events sequence:
- Quarter 1: San Francisco Chronicle
- Quarter 2: Time Magazine
- Quarter 3: Google Reader, teacher-directed.
- Quarter 4: Student-curated aggregator.
Please let me know what you think and if you have ideas.