Tagged: tech reviews

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Stay in contact with students with Remind. But do so sparingly so you’re not annoying.

remind School is back in session. This means, invariably, that people are debating whether to ban homework and whether it’s OK for teachers to text their students.

It’s a tough question, this texting thing. There are definitely best practices, like (1) make sure it’s OK with your students and their parents, (2) don’t text your students too often, (3) unless it’s really important, don’t initiate a text with an individual student.

Now that SmashText is no longer, I like Remind, a service for teachers to stay in contact with students and parents via text messages.

Remind keeps everything easy and safe. There is a web version and a phone app, and both are beautiful and easy to use. Students and parents can subscribe to your reminders by sending a quick text to a phone number that is not yours. Most important, communication is one-way: You get to talk with them, but they don’t get to talk to you.

Here’s a screenshot of what Remind looks like:

remindscreenshot

I used to bristle at the one-way communication part. After all, isn’t it weird to receive a text message and then not be able to respond? I think the answer to that is yes.

(If you’re in that camp, it’s an easy solution to offer a Google Voice number to your students and parents if they want to contact you directly.)

Teachers are using Remind in many ways:
-remind students of homework,
-remind students to study for a quiz,
-distribute assignments,
-capture and send key info from day’s lesson,
-ask homework questions and do formative assessments.

Remind also has a ton of new features, which are pretty slick, including the ability to send attachments and audio recordings. The Stamps feature lets students and parents interact with your texts via the Remind app, so teachers can ask quick homework questions, take a poll, ask parents for help on a field trip, among other things.

I plan on using Remind this year with the 162 students participating in the Kindle Classroom Project. Because I don’t see them more than once a week, I might want to send out an announcement about new books or an upcoming meeting.

Teachers, what do you think about texting your students? Do reminders help or hinder students’ personal responsibility? When is texting too much or too close? Would your students like Remind, or is it too impersonal? 

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Get Your Students to Love the News, #7: News360 helps students collect the news

news360_icon_playbook_largefavicon Today I’m back with a new installment to the “Get Your Students to Love the News,” which I think is slowly becoming a great resource for teachers. Today is the seventh installment. When you have time, be sure to check out the other posts, too.

So far in the series, I’ve avoided reviewing “news aggregators,” which collect articles from various sources based on user interests. After all, as I’ve written about, you want to make sure that your students understand that news comes from real people and real news organizations and not randomly from the air.

Once that’s solid, it’s OK, I think, to move to news aggregators because students can choose topics they’re passionate about and then follow them over time.

There are a ton of good aggregators, including Flipboard and Zite (which Flipboard acquired earlier this year). Flipboard is the most popular, and a lot of people like it, but I don’t, mostly because of its user interface, which involves, well, a lot of flipping. Zite used to be my favorite, but since its acquisition, I’ve been checking out News360 and am pretty impressed.

News360 has a website but looks better on tablets and phones. As I’ve said before, for students, the phone is where things happen.

To get a sense of what News360 does, consider its tagline: “Everything you want to read.” In case that’s confusing, News360’s website tells you directly the purpose of its service: “News360 is an app that learns what you enjoy and find stories you’ll like around the web.” OK, I get it. But what does that mean?

It means you first select topics you’re interested in, and then News360 goes and finds articles for you. You can choose topics large or small, specific or generic, local or international. For example, I’m following Music, Movies (both general), Running, Literacy (a bit more specific), and Amazon Kindle (very specific). You can also follow news organizations (like the New York Times), but I don’t think that’s best practice for a news aggregator, whose purpose is to offer new articles from sources you may not read.

After you choose your topics, you get a feed that looks like this (on your phone):

Screenshot_2014-07-24-14-41-24

So that’s pretty good. But the best part comes once you start reading articles. You can vote an article up or down, and magically, News360 learns about your interests and gives you more or fewer of those kinds of articles based on your vote.

Let’s take a look at the Jon Bon Jovi article to see what it looks like:

Screenshot_2014-07-24-15-12-04

See the thumbs-up and thumbs-down icons? The power to determine whether or not you view more articles about Mr. Bon Jovi is entirely in your fingers. (Additionally, you can share the article with a friend — or save it to your Pocket — using the share icon.)

But also take a look at the tags above the article’s headline. Let’s say that reading about Mr. Bon Jovi has really inspired you to learn more about opera (not exactly sure about why that is, but please go with it). Pressing on that icon leads you to this screen:

Screenshot_2014-07-24-15-22-43

Yep, here you have more articles about the opera — and, by pressing on the + button up top, the ability to follow that topic, too.

These two features of News360 — voting articles up or down, and adding topics as a result of reading an article — offer you a nice balance of sometimes refining and sometimes expanding your reading interests.

Plus, News360 looks good, is simple to use, and I think will appeal to students. It’s not anathema like an RSS reader (Feedly, Digg Reader), but it’s also not too-serious = boring.

* * *
Using News360 with Your Students
I can see a lot of ways that teachers can use News360 with their students. Here are a few. Please add more in the comments!

1. Research can be fun.
Research shouldn’t be boring. It should be about following an interest over time and learning more about it. Sure, when students have to write a research paper, then things get serious again — with collecting evidence, paraphrasing, making sure you’re not plagiarizing, and citing your sources. But in the preliminary phases, it’s all about reading a ton. An app like News360 can help teachers send that message to students.

2. Current Events Roundtables.
One frustration teachers tell me about is that students may not have a wide sense of the news. To combat that problem, teachers can require students to follow a small number of topics on News360 and then select one article to share with a small group. This can be done jigsaw-style, where each member of the group has a different topic.

3. Philosophical Discussions about the Internet Filtering Effect
So News360 is one of many services that offer its customers an individualized, personal look at the world. To some extent, most online services do something similar. What’s in our Facebook and Twitter feeds, for example, is determined by whom we follow. I read Eli Pariser’s excellent book, The Filter Bubble, a few back, in which he argues that all this online filtering threatens democracy. What do students think? Engaging them on this topic may also encourage students to think about how they gather and interact with news.

All right, that’s all for now. I hope you enjoyed this installment of “Get Your Students to Love the News.” There are a few more posts left, including a doozy, so please stay tuned.

Also, I’d love to hear your thoughts about News360 in the comments, if you like! Do you think news aggregators are good for students and their news reading lives, or are they a sacrilege to journalism? favicon

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Get Your Students to Love the News, #5: Vox explains current events step by step

photofavicon There’s a big new trend happening in the news industry, and it’s called explanatory journalism. Also known as data journalism, it’s the recent fad to shun the typical news cycle, in which sound bites and juicy tidbits rule, and instead focus on delivering the story through data and analysis.

Nate Silver, the founder of FiveThirtyEight, and Ezra Klein, founder of Vox, are the hot names behind explanatory journalism. They believe that typical news is biased and doesn’t give readers the whole story of what’s going on.

I agree. When it comes to offering background information — the key knowledge necessary to aid your comprehension — news articles are not the best genre.

I remember my first semester at college, having just subscribed to The New York Times, and trying to read news articles on the Israel-Palestine conflict. Because I wasn’t an expert on the history, I was lost. It took me a couple months of reading the paper to get enough of the back story.

The same can be said for most high school students. You may want them to be able to pick up Time Magazine and read it cover to cover, but for most of them, it’s not going to happen without some help. Students are fine with local articles. But once things go national (and wow, international), background knowledge deteriorates, and boredom-by-ignorance sets in.

That’s why I like Vox. Its motto is “Understand the News.” And the bulk of its site is a feature called “Cards.” Important topics — like Benghazi, Ukraine, and income inequality — are explained in a series of cards, called stacks. A question begins each card. It’s perfect for students to gather enough information to feel like they belong.

Let’s take a tour of a couple cards in the stack, “What is Obamacare?” Here’s part of the first card:

Screenshot 2014-05-18 21.03.15

You’ll notice that there is a real person, not a computer or atomizer, who is writing these cards. And you’ll see the abundant use of highlighter yellow, which makes me happy. Along the left is a navigation bar if you want to skip through to a new question. And along the top you’ll see that there are 32 cards in this topic.

There’s nothing exciting about these cards — no big videos pop out, and there’s no music. Which is fine by me. Remember, there’s nothing wrong about reading, right?

Here’s just one more card in the stack:

Screenshot 2014-05-18 21.07.01

This one is a good example of Vox’s emphasis on charts. They’re not as big on data as FiveThirtyEight, but they’re less annoying (and less about sports). It’s sometimes good to see visual representations of information.

Using Vox With Your Students
I can see a lot of ways that teachers can use Vox with their students. Here are a couple. Please add more in the comments!

1. Vox as Clarifier
Let’s say that you have your students read an article about Obamacare in The New York Times or on Newsela. You give the article to your students cold, and you direct them to monitor their understanding. As Kelly Gallagher likes to say, you prompt your students to “mark their confusion.”

But instead of immediately filling in your students’ knowledge gaps, you tell them to write down clarifying questions. You don’t answer them. Instead, you have your students go to the Obamacare card stack on Vox.

What will likely happen is that your students will realize that some of their questions are similar to the questions on Vox. After shuffling around and reading some cards, students can share how the background information helped their understanding of the original article.

2. Student Vox
Vox has some great card stacks, but it’s still a new site. That means that your students should make some stacks, too!

There are a few ways of doing this:

  • Students take an existing Vox stack and add additional cards. This isn’t too fun, but it would be a good way to start out.
  • Students do a Vox stack based on a personal interest, like skateboarding or quinceaneras.
  • Once they get the hang of it: Students choose an important current event, follow it for a month or so, come up with key questions that everyone should know, and develop a Vox stack on Google Sheets or something similar.

I like the idea of encouraging students to make something, instead of just consuming current events. The best reading (the best learning, too) comes with producing something new.

So there you have it. Vox is a great way to remind your students that news isn’t just something that randomly happens every day. Each current event is part of something bigger — it’s a piece to a larger puzzle.

Please check out Vox and let me know if you think it’s useful for students. If you have ideas for using Vox, please offer that insight, too. Thank you!

Also: Read the rest of the “Get Your Students to Love the News” series! favicon

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Yahoo News Digest is sharp and sleek. Students might like it. Here’s why I don’t.

favicon If you’re a loyal Iserotope reader, which I know you are (or want to be), you’ve been following my “Get Your Students to Love the News” series, in which I help teachers get their students to love the news.

This post is dedicated to a news app that didn’t make the cut. Yahoo News Digest is only several months old, just came to Android, and is visually stunning, like most Yahoo apps under Marissa Mayer.

I mean, it’s beautiful. Take a look at tonight’s front page:

2014-05-11 03.36.15

With glitzy design like that, students would love to read the news, right? Probably. There’s no doubt that Yahoo News Digest looks pretty.

But that’s not all. The app updates just twice a day — at 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. — just like newspapers of old. My family, for example, took the San Francisco Chronicle in the morning, while my friends’ family took the afternoon San Francisco Examiner. (Both papers are horrible now.) This is a brilliant move. Instead of pushing out articles minute after minute, Yahoo News Digest curates the most important news and packages everything into the top 8-12. As a result, we’re not overwhelmed. We feel like we’re reading the newspaper.

News Digest designer Nick D’Aloisio confidently told Verge:

We’re not saying these are things you’re going to be interested in. We’re saying, these are the things you need to know about.”

Here’s what the second page looks like. It’s nice and sleek:

2014-05-11 03.42.44There are several other excellent features to Yahoo News Digest. The posts feature beautiful photographs, colorful quotations, Wikipedia entries to build background knowledge, links to in-depth articles, and even trending tweets about the topic.

Who could ask for anything more?

It’s pretty amazing, actually — so amazing, in fact, that some may argue that Yahoo News Digest is a better version of Circa than Circa.

Not so fast.

I wrote about Circa recently, and it made my list of ways to help get your students to love the news, and you’ll notice that Circa made the cut, and you’ll notice that Yahoo News Digest did not.

So why Circa and not Yahoo News Digest?

First, Yahoo News Digest is a direct copy of Circa. The good folks over at Yahoo weren’t even trying to hide their intentions. I’m not a big fan of copiers.

Second, Yahoo News Digest relies on Summly, a computerized “news atomizer” that takes several real news articles, grinds them up, and puts them back together in a summarized form. Sure, Circa also atomizes the news, but there’s a sense that more real humans, not just artificial intelligence algorithms, do the summarizing. As a result, the quality of the stories Circa is by far superior.

Third, and most important, real news organizations want nothing to do with Yahoo News Digest. And why would they? It doesn’t seem like a good business plan to sell your product to a news chipper, a news slice-and-dicer. As a result, Yahoo News Digest relies on the Associated Press, Reuters, and other multinational newsgathering agencies. On the other hand, Circa uses more reputable sources, like the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and the Washington Post.

There are plenty of other reasons that Circa is better than Yahoo News Digest. I especially like how you can follow topics. But most of all, Circa’s user interface, which break up an article into cards that swipe up one at a time, is perfect.

OK, so this post became a Yahoo News Digest vs. Circa debate, with Circa winning, and that’s fine. Even though Yahoo News Digest looks prettier, don’t let appearance deceive you or your students.

It’s better to go with content than with looks.

Do you agree with me? Check out both apps and let me know what you think. Which would your students prefer, and why? favicon

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Get Your Students to Love the News, #3: Newsela meets kids at their reading level

newselafavicon Imagine my joy when I found out about Newsela, a website that modifies the vocabulary and syntax of news articles to match the reading levels of students.

I will confirm: There was significant joy.

Not only does Newsela offer students high-interest news articles, but it also does something truly novel: It provides those articles at five different reading levels. Students can choose the version of the article — ranging from a fourth grade reading level to twelfth grade — that is right for them.

Let me give you an example. A month or so ago, Newsela posted an article, originally published in the Tribune Washington Bureau, about President Obama’s “My Brother’s Keeper” program. Here is the original article, estimated at a 12th grade reading level. When a student goes to the article, she sees this toolbar on the right side: 1 This is where it gets interesting. The student can choose to read the original article, labeled “max,” or an easier version. The L next to the number refers to Lexile, a well-regarded measurement of text complexity. An 1190L is around ninth grade, 1060L is seventh, 950L is sixth, and 700L is fourth. The magic happens when the student selects one of the levels. Here’s the article’s lead at the 12th grade level.

Screenshot 2014-05-02 21.28.36 And here is the same paragraph, adapted by Newsela staff (real people, not robots!), at the 4th grade level.

Screenshot 2014-05-02 21.30.12 You’ll notice that the meaning is the same, and in fact many of the words are the same, but the second paragraph has easier vocabulary and simpler syntax.

Pretty brilliant, don’t you think?

Newsela’s brilliance doesn’t end there. There are tons of other great features that will make teachers (and maybe students) extremely happy. For example, many Newsela articles come with a four-question comprehension quiz that looks like a friend version of the upcoming Smarter Balanced (Common Core) assessments.

Screenshot 2014-05-03 08.32.30

The quizzes let students know if they “got” the article, plus each question is aligned with a specific anchor reading standard from Common Core.

I’m working with a teacher in San Francisco right now who incorporates Newsela in her ongoing study of current events, and she reports that her students appreciate the quiz feature because it gives them quick and immediate feedback. If students feel like they’ve understood the article but got only 1/4 on the quiz, maybe the answer is to lower the reading level. (The quiz’s questions are also based on Lexile.)

There are only two negatives about Newsela (that I see). The first is that there’s no way this service is going to be free for very much longer. I’m hopeful that the kind folks at Newsela will continue to offer a free option. The second is that Newsela doesn’t currently have a mobile app. Sure, not everything needs to be on students’ phones, but it never hurts.

Please check out Newsela and leave a brilliant insight about whether you like it, and if you do, how you would use it in your classroom! Thank you!

Update: I just learned that Newsela now has an two-way annotation feature. My response: OMG! Something great just got even better.

(Want to read all the posts in the series?) Please do. favicon

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Get Your Students to Love the News, #2: Circa explains current events concisely

circanewsUpdate, Sept. 2014: This post is now out of date, thanks to circa’s 3.0 update, which is beautiful! But most of the post still stands.

favicon Yes, it makes me crazy that very few teachers emphasize current events. As a former social studies teacher, I can criticize my fellow social studies colleagues and ask, incredulously, “Um, how come you’re not having your students read the news?”

My modest proposal is that all English teachers should do independent fiction reading and that all social studies teachers should do independent nonfiction reading. Simple as that.

And that’s partly why I’m doing this Get Your Students to Love the News series. In case you didn’t catch the first installment (about Umano), I’m trying to suggest that it’s not all that hard or expensive to get your students excited about current events. You don’t need multiple subscriptions to newspapers or magazines. You don’t even need a computer. All you need is to convince your students to install an app on their phone.

That’s the case for Circa, an excellent phone app available for iOS and Android.

This is what the good people at Circa do. They identify the important news of the day. Then they read several articles from leading news sources, like the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal. And finally, in a stroke of genius, they incorporate the most important and common information from those articles into a succinct story that explains clearly what happened.

You could say that Circa summarizes the news, but David Cohn, the director of news, would disagree. I (sort of) see where he’s coming from. A straight-up summary wouldn’t necessarily give you the background and context of the news event. Circa does a good job there.

Also, a regular summary wouldn’t connect to you similar and related stories. A Circa story does. Best of all (my favorite), Circa stories include citations, so you and your students know from where the information is coming. Regular summaries don’t.

I like Circa for three main reasons: (1) It gets right to the point, and the reading level is moderate, (2) You can follow a Circa story, and when there is a new development, you can receive a notification, (3) The news is fairly serious. You won’t get articles about what your cat is trying to tell you when he knocks your valuables off the countertop.

Here’s a quick tour through a Circa story I read today — and why I think students would benefit:

Sample Title Page: Image, Headline, Lead

Screenshot_2014-04-29-17-50-40

Nice and simple. Your students will like the image, and they can get a quick glimpse of the most crucial facts. You could also ask them, before moving on, to set a purpose for reading the article, or to ask possible questions.

 Sample Body Page: Key Facts, Key Quotations

Screenshot_2014-04-29-17-50-47

This is a great example of how Circa identifies the key players, explains who they are, and lets them share their opinion. Therefore, students can build their background knowledge and also be introduced to important newsmakers. There’s nothing wrong, for example, with knowing who Justice Elena Kagan is and what she thinks about search and seizure.

Sample Explanation Page, Plus a Related Storyline

Screenshot_2014-04-29-17-51-06

 

Many news articles, because they build from assumed common background knowledge, and because they follow an incrementalist approach (day-by-day reporting), don’t always pause to make sure you know the basics. My feeling is that students would appreciate simple declarative sentences on this screen. Also, if they’re interested, they can read a related story (and follow it, too, if they like).

Sample Citations Page

Screenshot_2014-04-29-17-51-45

OK, so maybe this won’t be your students’ favorite page, but I think it’s excellent. It tells students, “Um, this is where we got the information,” and “News comes from news sources, and here are some of the most popular and most prestigious” (except for maybe USA Today). It’s a bit like checking a works cited page or a list of endnotes. I like it.

The only negative to Circa is that the writing may come off as dry to some students. After all, Circa is trying to remain objective. There’s not an easily discernible slant. There’s no edge. As a result, students may find the writing a bit boring.

My response to that possible criticism is that I believe it’s important that students are informed first before making a claim. Let’s teach them to gather information, to read a lot, to see different views — and then to make an argument.

If that happened, maybe our world would be a better place, too.

Please try out Circa and let me know what you think. If you try it out with students, I’d love to hear what they think. Thank you very much! (Feel free to make a brilliant insight.) favicon

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Screencastify: Simple, easy, solid

Screencastfavicon Teachers, if you’re a screencaster, I’d like you to try out Screencastify. It’s easier and simpler than Jing or Camtasia, and it’s the first screencasting software that works on Chromebooks.

It’s a Chrome app, so you need to use Google Chrome, but if that’s OK with you, Screencastify then becomes an extension that’s easy to access.

Screencastify takes about five seconds to set up. (You need to allow it to record your voice). Then, just click on the extension, then on “Start Recording,” and you’re off and running.

Here’s an example (about 50 seconds)!

After you’re finished, the screencast is saved directly in the extension window. You can upload your screencast immediately to YouTube (public or private) or export it as a file.

The only weakness is that it doesn’t directly save to a URL. It would be amazing, for example, if a copy of the YouTube URL were saved to the clipboard so I could email or text a student my screencast.

This would save a huge amount of time, especially because I know many English teachers who like to screencast their essay comments.

If you try out Screencastify, please let me know what you think in the comments. Meanwhile, maybe you’ll see more screencasts on Iserotope in the near future! favicon

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Trying out a nook. (Don’t tell the Kindles.)

Nook1favicon If I’m testing out a nook, do I need to change the name of the Kindle Classroom Project?

These are important existential questions.

(Also important: Knowing that the “n” is always lowercase.)

A few weeks ago, generous donor Donna from Denver donated several e-readers, including two 1st generation nooks.

I’ve been playing around with one of them. My initial review: I sort of like it! (Please don’t tell the 139 Kindles.)

What I Like
There’s a color touchscreen on the bottom. It’s playful and more user-friendly than the early generations of the Kindle. Everyone likes a touchscreen, especially my students.

It has page numbers. The nook gives you what page you’re on, rather than a “location.” This seems more human.

The menu is easier to access. It’s easy to skip to another chapter and  more intuitive to do some other key things.

Dave Barry wrote the user guide. This actually doesn’t make a difference, but I liked some of his tips for taking care of your nook. (1) “Never put your nook into a blender without a really good reason.” (2) “Keep your nook away from raccoons.” (3) “If an armed person says, ‘Your nook or your life,” surrender your nook.”

What I Don’t Like
The screen isn’t great. It’s a first generation device, so I wasn’t expecting a great screen, but I found it harder to read on than the early Kindles.

It’s not easy to look up words. There’s no five-way controller, so it takes forever. If I were a student, I’d just skip the word and read on.

The touchscreen isn’t sensitive enough. You really have to press down with significant force. And don’t try to type out a note; it’ll take forever.

Overall, I think the nook is solid. I’m going to get the two nooks out to students and see what they think. My hunch is that they’ll like them a lot and maybe prefer them to Kindles.

But for right now, at least, I’m not ready to ask for nooks or change my little program to the Kindle and nook Classroom Project. The biggest reason is that Amazon already has my allegiance, and books on the Kindle don’t work on the nook, and vice-versa. It just doesn’t make sense to purchase both the azw3 and the epub versions of each e-book.

Another reason is that I still think that Barnes and Noble is going to go out of business. Amazon may discontinue its E Ink Kindles, but the company itself, despite its limited profits, isn’t disappearing anytime soon.

Please let me know what you think. Should I open up donations of nooks? If so, what would be the benefit? Thank you! favicon

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All right, so maybe Digg Reader isn’t perfect

diggiconfavicon A few months ago, I got all crazy and wrote that Digg Reader was better than Feedly. Well, I still stand by (most of) what I wrote — but not everything.

As an aside, the main Digg site — the article generator and curator — is excellent and getting better and better. The editors at Digg choose content wisely. And Digg made a great decision to leave most of its videos on a new separate page. (I like videos, sure, but I came here to read.) Even better is how Digg integrates its reader into the entire experience. The thinking is sophisticated and elegant.

As for Digg Reader, I still think the web experience is cleaner and more beautiful than what Feedly offers. When I’m on Digg Reader, peaceful is the adjective that comes to mind. (Feedly gets the adjective cluttered.)

Unfortunately for Digg Reader, I spend a lot of time reading on the go, which means on my phone. This is where Feedly’s mobile app (at least for Android) is far superior. Like, a lot. Here’s why:

1. When you open up Digg Reader on your phone, you get Digg’s curated articles, not your own. You have to go to a separate screen to get your items. Feedly gives you your articles.

2. When you scroll through articles that you don’t want to read, Digg Reader does not count them as read (either by default or by choice). Feedly does.

3. It’s much harder to scroll through articles on Digg Reader than it is on Feedly. In Feedly, I see several headlines at a time, and when I scroll, an entire new page of items comes up. It’s very snappy. That’s not the case for Digg Reader.

What does this mean for me? As much as I love Digg Reader, I can’t call it my 100% Google Reader replacement. (It’s so funny, by the way, that people were predicting the Google Reader Apocalypse last summer. Things turned out fine, though maybe RSS is dying.) Most of the time, I’m using Digg Reader on my computer and Feedly on my phone. It’s not an elegant solution, but it’s working out so far.

In the meantime, I’ve sent a few emails and tweets to Digg Reader asking them whether they plan on letting users choose a scroll-as-read feature. I haven’t heard back. In this age of excellent customer service, this isn’t the most welcoming news. Despite their imperfections, however, I still find myself using Digg and Digg Reader all the time, hoping for the little improvements that will make things perfect. favicon

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5 reasons Digg Reader is better than Feedly

diggiconfavicon Like most people, when Google Reader closed in July, I gravitated toward Feedly as its replacement. Feedly had a plan to migrate Reader users over to its service, plus its phone app was beautiful. I was sold.

But then came the bad news. Feedly was often over capacity. It liked to make me sign in again. And it was sometimes slow.

So that got me trying out Digg Reader. I’m really happy with it. It’s now the reader I use and recommend. Here are some reasons why:

1. It’s faster and easier.
Signing up takes two or three clicks. Once you’re in, the interface is simple to use. There aren’t tons of features. Everything just makes sense. When you click through your list of items, there’s no lag. It’s even faster than Google Reader used to be.

2. It has a calmer look.
There is sufficient blank space. Nothing is cramped, and there aren’t random unnecessary doodads cluttering up the screen. The light blue color is pleasing to the eye. The settings are easy to change, and it’s simple to organize your feeds. Nobody wants to stress out while reading their reader items.

3. Its keyboard shortcuts are as good as Feedly’s.
You’ll want to get through your items quickly and save or share the ones you like. I’m not sure why readers aren’t investing more of their effort into developing better keyboard shortcuts. For example, both Feedly and Digg allow you to save an item by pressing “s.” But Feedly doesn’t let you email an item, whereas Digg does. On the other hand, Digg does not let you share an item, while Feedly does (to Buffer).

Unsolicited advice for Digg Reader: “f” should share to Facebook, “t” to Twitter, “g” to Google+, and so on.

4. It saves directly to Pocket.
I’m a huge Pocket user, and Digg lets you save items directly to Pocket. That’s so much more convenient than having to set up an IFTTT recipe, which I had to do with Feedly.

5. It’s connected to Digg.
Digg is making a major comeback, and the site’s content and design are top-notch. If you find something on Digg that you want to read later, all you have to do is save it, and it appears in your Digg Reader.

* * *

So yes, I prefer Digg Reader, and I recommend it to others. But I find myself unable to get rid of Feedly entirely and currently check both Digg and Feedly. This is cumbersome and awkward, so why can’t I commit completely to Digg?

The big reason is that Digg doesn’t yet have an Android phone app, plus Feedly’s is spectacular. I mean, if you’re a phone person, there’s no reason ever to visit the Feedly website. Just stay on your phone and bask in the Feedly glory. It’s one of the best phone apps out there. (I think it has more features and is more powerful than the website.) Digg said that an Android app was coming out by the end of the July, but it’s not here yet. If it’s half as good as Feedly’s, I’ll be happy.

I’m also fascinated by Feedly’s various list views. Digg gives you two choices: list or expanded. Feedly gives you bazillions (or at least five): titles, magazine, timeline, cards, and full articles. Sometimes, when I use Digg, I get a bit jealous. But didn’t I mention that Feedly is extra slow?

Finally, at least right now, I like that you can add a feed to Feedly the old-school way, by clicking on a site’s RSS icon. This takes a few seconds to set up, but at least you can do it with Feedly. I haven’t yet figured out how with Digg.

Once Digg delivers a workable Android phone, though, I’ll be all set. But I also understand why many people prefer Feedly. Which RSS reader are you using? Do you have a favorite yet, or are you still mourning the loss of Google Reader? favicon