Week 3: RSS and Alerts: Keeping Up

Robot holding RSS symbol.  Image courtesy of Flickr user Rafa[EU]This week is all about RSS, which stands for "Real Simple Syndication."  If you are starting to feel a tad overwhelmed with the sheer amount of information that is available on the internet and in the Web 2.0 world, you are not alone!  There are so many blogs, websites, new tools, and interesting articles.  How can one person possibly keep up with it all?  How can you weed out the stuff you don't want from the information that you do? 

One way to keep up is by using an RSS reader which allows you to subscribe directly to the content that interests you.  Some people call them "readers," "feed readers," or "aggregators."  Whatever you call it, the idea is to bring the information to you- rather than have you go to the information. 

First, watch this short CommonCraft video that neatly explains all about RSS:

Thing 5: Setup an RSS Reader There are several great ones to choose from: Google Reader, Bloglines, Newsgator, or My Yahoo.  If you already have a Google account, you will find it easy to use the Google Reader.  Likewise, if you are a Yahoo! user, My Yahoo! might be the best choice.  But don't be afraid to try a few and see which one is the best fit for you. To set up an RSS Reader, you will need to first create an account and then explore the tools, settings, and particular interface of the program you choose. Click here to watch a quick video on adding feeds (aka "subscriptions") to GoogleReader. 

Maybe you'd like to put an RSS feed subscription on the Darien Public School website or your child's teacher's website. Or maybe you'll love reading a local mom blogger, like Nicole Lyons from All About Darien, who blogs about events in and around town. Did you know that there are lots of websites that share local information through Feeds including FairfieldCountyChild, Darien Patch and even the local newspapers!

Maybe using a Reader is still just ONE MORE THING to have to check and follow. Maybe you check your email regularly and think that having the information sent right to your inbox is preferrable and more convenient. Try setting up an RSS Feed that will send updates directly to your email account with Feed My Inbox. Watch an explaniation of how it works here.

Extra Credit: Alerts

Create an Alert using Google Alert. Google Alerts are email updates of the latest relevant Google results (web, news, etc.) based on your choice of query or topic. Just want to see how it works? Try putting an alert on "Darien Library" and see who's talking about our library online!

Thing 6: Add  Darien Library 21 Things to your reader and at least one other blog. Now that you know how easy it is, you'll be on top of everything in no time!

Week 2: Browsing and Searching

We all browse and search the web because that is what the web is for!  This week we are going to focus on different searching features.

Often times, we use the browser that comes with our computer; Internet Explorer for PCs and Safari for Macs.  But there is another browser which has some great features.  I use it a lot.  And that is Mozilla Firefox.  Which brings us to...

Thing 2: downloading Mozilla Firefox onto your computer and playing around with its tabs. 

What is Mozilla?  Mozilla is free, and is open source technology. Click here to download.  One of the best parts about Mozilla is the tabs feature.  You can switch back and forth between multiple websites on the tabs; directions to NYC, a list of museums, a restaurant reservation site.  Planning your day is easy peasy.  Watch this video about how to use tabs

There are also some cool add-ons.  Think of them as apps for your computer!  Some are for personal organization such as Read It Later, for you to save the website for when you have more time. Another add-on you might like to try is KidZui, a search for kids!

Thing 3:  download an add-on feature in Mozilla.  Write a comment below on what you thought about the add-on you chose.  Did it live up to what you thought it would be?


Now...start your search engines! 

Thing 4. Do the same search (of any topic you'd like) in Google and Bing

How was the process?  Write your thoughts in the comments below:  did you get similar results, or different results?  Also for thing 3, click on Bing's visual search.  How was the same search in visual?  Or, do you think that visual search only coalesces with certain topics?


This week we looked at a browser, which is the application that gets you onto the web (like Firefox or Internet Explorer) and search engines that search the web itself (like Google and Bing.)  As a parent, you can change search engines' settings on the computer that your children use most frequently. Google has SafeSearch Filtering for easy filtering at the browser level.

Try a few searches on kid friendly engines:

  • Yahoo Kids (no results for "breast" but good results for "breast cancer")
  • FactMonster (good relevant results for same search)
  • AskKids (a little inconsistent, good results when misspelled "breas," no relevant results with correct spelling "breast")
  • KidsClick (a site created by librarians, but very tough filter)

What kind of results would you want if your child was doing legitimate research for a school assignment? Protecting younger children from stumbling across questionable content is one issue, allowing your older children to access reliable information for learning about life and health is another.

There are many ways of controlling the access your children have to the Internet and this is an issue that will weave through many of the lessons in this program. See this great article over at CNET for an overview of security options for parents. Kids deserve Intellectual Freedom (pdf), but it is up to us to help them learn to how to find good information and evaluate those resources.The focus of this program is not to teach any one area of technology in depth, but to strengthen your own use and understanding of Web 2.0 so that you may more confidently exercise control at your own comfort level. For more resources on Internet Safety, please see this link for additional resources.

Week 1: What is Web 2.0?

Thing 1: Read & watch the following perspectives on Web 2.0, technology and digital citizenship. Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Welcome parents, we're so glad you're here!

The term Web 2.0 is commonly associated with applicaitons and sites that allow for information sharing and collaboration on the World Wide Web. The history of the modern Internet can be traced all the way back to the early generations of computers in the 1950's and 1960's. The original networks were actually created and run by scientific, military, and a few commercial enterprises. You can watch a fantastic animated explanation here. But that was then, and this is now. Web 1.0 only allowed us to passively view information that was provided on a website. Web 2.0 allows us to interact and even personalize content on a website. Web 2.0 is not static, it is interactive.

Watch this video by Cultural Anthropologist, Professor Michael Wesch (dubbed, "The Explainer" by Wired Magazine) to get a glimpse into how digital text is different from traditional text. 

The focus of this program is not formal education, but an informal learning experience focused on these tools. At the kick-off party, , we watched this video, also by Professor Wesch called, A Vision of Students Today. Take a few minutes to watch it and bear in mind that video was made in 2007. By the time your children are in their first year of college, how different will the world be?

Our kids are often referred to as Digital Natives. They will never know a life without computers and interactive technology - Meet 1 year old, Joey.


It's not what we do for our children that will make them successful, it is what we can teach them to do for themselves that will make them successful.

We want to be there for them when our children face challenges. So, just like with reading, we should be there and help them learn to use technology and computers. We are moving away from just "literacy" and moving toward Transliteracy; the ability to read, write and interact across a range of platforms, tools and media from signing and orality through handwriting, print, TV, radio and film, to digital social networks.

There are many issues that we as parents and guardians of children need to be aware of and be thinking about like Digital Citizenship, Privacy and Safety, but please don't be afraid - consider what is Fact vs. Fear.  Using these tools can be FUN! They can help bring you closer to extended family that may live elsewhere and even, perhaps, closer to those living under the same roof. We can extend the parenting lessons we learn in the physical world into the virtual world.

Kids love to play, but the way they play is changing. From an early age, Play is important to a child's development and learning. It is not just physical, but also cognitive, emotional, creative and imaginitive. Young children learn through their senses. Now that technology is changing into a more multi-touch, physically interactive experience, it allows for even greater opporuntities for children to Play.

So, what are the benefits? Why should you care about learning how to use these 2.0 tools? Simple. Your kids are using them. There is no going back and before Web 3.0 is upon us, your kids need you to be actively involved in this part of their life.

This video is not aimed directly at parents, but drives home the message. The power of social media - it is not a fad, it is a revolution.


Last year, PBS aired a documentary called, Digital Nation. The piece explores how technology is reshaping our culture and the realities of our human experience within this 21st Century world. If you don't have time to watch the entire hour and 30 minute broadcast, please take a few minutes to watch this chapter, Old School, New School. In it, they interview teachers and kids about issues like cheating, time pressures, reading and learning.

Through this program over the next 12 weeks, we will introduce you to websites and ask you to engage and experiment with them. Every Monday morning from now until May 1st, we will post a new lesson on this website. Participants will post comments on the lesson. In a few weeks, you will create a blog that will enable you to chronicle your experience. Blogging will be explained in more detail in Week 4.

For this first "Thing," we'd just like you to comment below on what you've read and watched about the philosophy and framework of Web 2.0 and how it is reshaping our society. Most importantly, how are your kids are growing up digital and how can the adults in their lives be involved in their experience?

Why did you sign up for this program?

Where are you in your knowledge and use of Web 2.0 tools?

Can you easily identify a Web 2.0 tool? 

How has the Internet and the vast resources it can offer affected your use of time at work and/or at home?