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Feb 28, 2015
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What Are Blogs, RSS Feeds, Podcasts, and Widgets?

What Is a Blog?

The term "blog" is the shortened form of "weblog" — a diary or journal on the Web. The "blogger" (or author) writes periodically about a certain topic of his or her choosing (personal experiences, thoughts, hobbies, political aspirations, etc.). The blogger can provide links to other websites that s/he thinks might interest the audience. S/he can also allow the readers of the blog to post comments and start discussions about the blog as a whole, or about a particular episode in the blog (one day's entry).

Type in the words "teacher blog" in any search engine, such as Google, and you'll find that teachers around the country and the world are blogging all the time about their experiences in the classroom, from elementary school to high school and beyond.

Here are some of our favorite education blogs:

There are free, easy-to-use tools to help you publish your blog. Choosing a service that is focused on education will provide a safe way to get your students blogging too! Edublogs is the world's most popular education blogging service. It is a safe, secure, and reliable way for teachers and students to engage in blogging. Kidblog is a simple blogging platform with advanced privacy features appropriate for elementary and middle school students; teachers have administrative control over what gets published—and what doesn't.

What Is an RSS Feed?

RSS (which most people agree stands for "Really Simple Syndication") feeds are a way to get new content from websites delivered quickly to your desktop, through subscriptions. RSS is a quick way for computers to exchange information such as news summaries and other frequently updated content. The RSS feed is indicated by an orange RSS feed button. Find TeacherVision® RSS feeds for the the subject and grade you teach. To subscribe to a feed, you must first have a newsreader. The orange button gives you the XML link address to enter into your newsreader. Drag that link into your newsreader instead of clicking on it — while XML is great for computers, most people find it a lot harder to read.

Getting a Newsreader

For your convenience, here is a list of several newsreaders. To find more, just enter "rss reader" into any search engine.

To view RSS feeds in Google Chrome, download the RSS Subscription Extension by Google.

Configuring a Reader to Use RSS Feeds

While each newsreader has its own means of configuration, here are some tips to get you started.

Drag & Drop
Most newsreaders allow you to drag and drop the XML button from your browser. Some will not let you drop the icon just anywhere in the application, but require that you put it in a specific spot—for example, the address bar.

Manually Enter the RSS Address
Almost all newsreaders support some means of entering the RSS address into a dialog or address bar. You may type it by hand, copy the address from the address bar of the feed page, or select "copy shortcut" from the context menu (i.e., the right-click menu) of the XML button .

Autodiscovery
In newsreaders that support autodiscovery, the address of the Web page alone will work, as long as there is an RSS feed for that page. For instance, if you drag the Favorites icon from the address bar, you should see the RSS feed, if your newsreader supports this feature. (Some applications will launch a subscription dialog, others will give you the option of subscribing after you have previewed the RSS feed).

What Is a Podcast?

A podcast is an audio and/or video file that you can download from the Internet and listen to on your computer's media player (most computers come with one installed), or on your MP3 player (like an iPod). You can listen to it right away, or you can save it for later and listen to it on the train, on a bus, while walking, etc.

You can choose to download any podcast that looks interesting to you, or you can subscribe to a podcast that is broadcasted regularly and have it sent to your computer via an RSS feed (see the above explanation for more on RSS feeds). It's just like subscribing to a newspaper or magazine — the podcast is sent to your computer when it becomes available, and you can choose to listen to it (or not) any time you want.

To download the podcast and listen to it immediately, you can just click on the audio file, which will open the media player on your computer. If you want to download the file as an MP3 file and play it on your personal listening device, you can usually just right click on the file and choose "Save as..." After that, you have to upload the file to your MP3 player.

You can try out a few of our podcasts to see some examples. We have podcasts of poems selected for National Poetry Month (April).

What Is a Widget?

A Web widget, also known as a gadget, is a piece of code that can be embedded in a Web page. A widget can provide you with weather updates, news, games, educational resources, and more! You can easily add widgets to your blog or website. Turn an RSS feed into a widget with a free tool, such as FeedGrabbr.

Highlights

Galactic Hot Dogs Reading Marathon
Join the Galactic Hot Dogs Reading Marathon! Read each episode as it's re-released with newly revealed facts, behind-the-scenes illustrations, and the inside scoop. Make it official by pledging on the blog to read each chapter with Cosmoe. Your students will love following the exploits of these space travelers, and you'll love the educational elements that can easily be paired to the stories.

Handwashing Awareness
Kids are especially susceptible to contracting and spreading viruses during the winter months. Prevention starts with proper handwashing. Show students how to keep germs away.

March Calendar of Events
March is full events that you can incorporate into your standard curriculum. Our Educators' Calendar outlines activities for each event, including: National School Breakfast Week (3/2-6), World Orphan Week (3/4-11), Boston Massacre (3/5/1770), Daylight Saving Time Begins (3/8), International Women's Day (3/8), Teen Tech Week (3/8-14), Pi Day (3/14), St. Patrick's Day (3/17), Spring Begins (3/20), Make Your Own Holiday Day (3/26), and World Theatre Day (3/27). Plus, celebrate Deaf History Month (3/15-4/15), Music In Our Schools Month, Women's History Month, and Youth Art Month!

Poptropica Teaching Guides
Poptropica is one of the Internet's most popular sites for kids—and now it's available as an app for the iPad! It's not just a place to play games; each of the islands featured on the site provides a learning opportunity. Check out our teaching guides to four of Poptropica's islands: 24 Carrot Island, Time Tangled Island, Mystery Train Island, and Mythology Island.

Take Our Survey!
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Women's History Month
March is Women's History Month. Talk to your students about the accomplishments women have made—as well as the adversity they have faced.

Teaching with Comics
Reach reluctant readers and English-language learners with comics! Our original teaching guide to the Galactic Hot Dogs comic series, as found on Funbrain.com, will take students on a cosmic adventure while engaging their creative minds. Plus, find even more activities for teaching with comics, featuring many other classic stores.


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