You know those people who are always spouting the latest news in EdTech? The ones who have heard about the new holographic, mind-operated iPad nine months before anyone else? The ones who look at you like you have two heads when you mention that you write lesson plans using Microsoft Word? These are the EdTech mavens. The brave explorers that scavenge and crawl the depths of the Internet looking for the next new tool to inspire and educate.
No, these people are not the Golums of web, and no, they are not even (all) considered geeks. These are just educators who choose to use their passion, intelligence and curiosity to find better ways of teaching and learning. They continually build their credibility, reputation and audience while creating exciting and innovative places to learn and work.
There are two paths to becoming an EdTech maven; one involves sleeping 30 minutes a night, giving up weekends and resigning to a life of vampiric solitude; the other involves using the very tools that only a maven can find, to curate the mountains of content and mine the priceless gems within.
This article focuses on the latter… And looks at one of the most overlooked but powerful tools of EdTech curation, Google Alerts.
What Are Google Alerts And Why Should You Care?
Google Alerts is one of the simplest curation concepts around – Choose your search terms and Google will send you an email any time new content is found. Now, there is a little more to it than that, but not much. It’s simple, quick and extremely powerful. But why should you care?
Be the first to know
Being a maven is all about being the first on the scene. Being the one to enlighten the rest, and provide value time and time again. With Google Alerts, you are always the first to know. Google crawls most popular sites very regularly, meaning that it finds new content before it has had a chance to propagate on social networks. Not only is being the first to know important for the reputation of a maven, it is also a great way to build a following online.
Finding hidden gems
Time and time again I stumble across a small unknown writer that is producing educational gold in a school or personal blog. Often these bloggers, teachers, professors and educators are producing content for their personal community not realizing how powerful their words are to a wider audience. Google’s algorithm will seek out these hard-to-find posts based on selected keywords and help you discover hidden gems.
Mail is hard to ignore
With torrents of information rolling in through Twitter feeds and Facebook streams, valuable information can easily get lost in the mix. Because Google Alerts send scheduled mails straight to your inbox, it’s a lot harder to miss that winning piece of information that could change your school.
Fresh and current
One problem with social media is that anyone can share anything. Often I find my feeds littered with articles that are years old. There is nothing wrong with learning from old articles, but as a maven you want to be sharing the hottest and freshest ideas. With Google Alerts you can be fairly certain that what is being delivered is hot off the press.
Focused and customized
Google’s search algorithm has been refined over the years to find the best possible results. This is the same algorithm that Google Alerts uses to deliver content to you mailbox. With detailed search operators and selectable result types (News, Blogs, Video, etc.) you can tightly focus on your interests and passions.
Getting Setup With Google Alerts
So what do you need to get started with Google Alerts? Well not much:
- Go to google.com/alerts
- Log in with your Google account details
- Choose your search query – Just as you would any Google search (don’t forget detailed search operators)
- Select result type – This dictates the types of content Google will Alert you on (News, Blogs, Video, Discussions, Books)
- Choose how often you would like to receive mail alerts (as-it-happens, daily, weekly) – I personally like as-it-happens to make sure I am truly the first to know
- Select how many results you want o be notified on – I suggest choosing “only the best results” if you have a broad search term. If your search is quite specific then go with “all results”
- Finally, choose the mail address you want alerts delivered to
- That is it! – You will begin getting alerts to your inbox immediately
Bring It Together With EdTech
So what should you be searching for? Well ,it is completely up to you, and I suggest some experimentation for the first few weeks. But, to get you started here are few tips from my own and others experience:
- Broad terms of interest – Try some general search terms such as “Education Technology“, EdTech, “Flip the classroom“. It’s quite basic, but you will quickly refine your searches to your exact interests.
- Names of people – By searching names you will get notifications on any content where that name is mentioned. This is good for finding content written by or about certain EdTech personalities and leaders.
- Specific technology types – This is a good one if you are particularly passionate about certain technologies. Try Smartboard, iPad or “Twitter in education“.
- Short-term searches – Sometimes you may want to focus on specific events or breaking news. Try using very specific queries such as an event name and location, choosing to return ALL results.
- Fractus Learning – And of course make sure to put in an alert for “Fractus Learning” (or any other site you are a fan of) to get the latest updates as they happen.
Who do you consider to be the top EdTech maven? And what tools are they using to stay on the cutting edge of EdTech?
Image courtesy of Flickr, pj_vanf