The Learning Librarian

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Google Reader

on February 5, 2013

When creating my Google Reader account (https://www.google.com/reader/view/?hl=en&tab=my&at=PEWFe5QnwAkUNX1yWQqL8w) I’ll admit that I was a little hesitant. Another reader? I thought, images of all the blogs/articles/books I regularly read cascading through my mind. Obviously, I enjoy reading (if I didn’t, this probably wouldn’t be the best profession to be going into) but thinking about adding more to my growing list of resources was not a particularly calming thought. However, I was pleasantly surprised. Google Reader makes it very easy to search for things you might like to subscribe to, and it keeps track of your subscriptions for you in the lower left corner. Within each topic you subscribe to, there are long lists of postings and discussions. I was surprised that Google Reader is more of a platform for discussion than I thought; I didn’t realize that people could respond to articles and contribute their own thoughts and ideas freely. I also really like the “Bundles” feature, where you are able to combine any of your subscriptions into one folder. Google Reader makes it easy to organize – whether you prefer things separate or all bundled (pun intended) together, it allows you to do as you please. It also lets you arrange the feed in many different ways: from oldest to newest, newest to oldest, or by “magic.” You can also read it in a different language, if you so choose. They really do think of everything.

While everything was easy to use and understand, I stand by my original “another reader?” question. I like Google Reader, I do, and I understand how many people appreciate its’ convenience, since you can easily check it while checking your e-mail. I am just struggling to figure out why it’s necessary when so many similar things already exist. What does it have that other resources don’t? (That’s rhetorical, but you’re welcome to answer if you’d like.) I’m not sure if I would use it with students because there is almost too much available information. I only subscribed to six feeds, and after returning to it after a weekend away, the articles and readings had piled up higher than I could ever believe, and I didn’t know where to start. I can only imagine what someone’s feed looks like when they’ve subscribed to ten, twenty, thirty feeds! Even though Google Reader breaks it down into categories and subcategories, etc etc, I think it would be challenging for students to weed through all the articles and responses in order to find what they’re looking for. While this would be a great exercise in Information Literacy, I’m wondering if it may end up being more frustrating than beneficial. I’m wondering who the authors of these postings really are. Yes, the writing is convincing, but there doesn’t seem to be any biographical information provided. We teach students to examine multiple sources and to not always accept the first answer they find as the correct one, but we need to facilitate this by steering them in the direction of the quality sources to examine. I think most of these contributors probably are reliable, but since I’m unfamiliar with them, I would be hesitant to relay them to my students without some further investigation. In teaching, I would probably refer my students to blogs or readers that respond to specific topics, or have them use Google Reader but only subscribe to one thing and explore it in-depth.

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