Social Media

“Help me Internet users savvier than myself, you’re my only hope!”

My channeling of Carrie Fisher and her character, Princess Leia’s, famous line from Star Wars (1977) will fly in the face of much of the bloviation that characterized my previous posts. (Yeah, I should go ahead and concede that my omniscience is still a work in progress.) However, I figured an appeal to my hordes of readers (note undercurrent of undying, perhaps naïve, optimism) might help me solve a technological dilemma that I’d like to sort out before the next school year begins.

As I’ve been planning how to implement various forms of social media into the classroom, I’ve given considerable thought to how using blogs as the primary medium for student writing and sharing of work would operate under ideal circumstances. For instance, I already use Google Reader and think that its ability to automatically import new blog posts will prove useful in helping me see that students have completed all their writing assignments, and have done so in a punctual way. Moreover, I think students will appreciate learning how to use Google Reader (or another RSS Reader) as a way to keep up with their peers’ postings and have access to collaborative documents for review and studying.

Just today I discovered a useful, and slightly time saving, Firefox add-on called Better GReader, which allows you to preview the actual pages of the blog and write comments on various posts without having to leave the Google Reader interface. I imagine that this add-on will make my commenting on my students’ blogs a bit more fluid and expeditious. Certainly, the convenience of not having to open, and then keep track of, yet another tab in Firefox will be a time-saver, but probably not entirely revolutionary.

So, in thinking about blogs both practically and pedagogically, I’d envisioned them as helping to foster a more student-centric approach as I could ask students to comment on one another’s blogs regularly (~ 1-2 times/week), which would provide them meaningful feedback and insight from someone other than myself. However, not only do I want to be able to keep track of each student’s posts (which I can do easily via Google Reader), but I’d also like to be able to see what each student has to say to his or her peers via comments on others’ blogs. Not only would this capability allow me to gain a sense about what posts, ideas, and arguments have proven the most intriguing, thereby allowing me to engage those topics in a more in-depth way during class, but more practically, it would also give me (quantifiable) insight into how seriously each student takes his or her role as a purveyor of critical feedback.

Now my dilemma centers on how to go about gauging and tapping into this follow-up discourse most effectively and efficiently. Of course I could go to each student’s blog and peruse the comments for each post, but that seems to defeat the aggregation function served by Google Reader. Alternatively, if I comment on each and every student’s blog post and then subscribe to all comments via email, I’d get a good sense of the follow-up dialogue — and a VERY cluttered and full inbox. Moreover, this approach seems unrealistic and impractical, especially if, as I’m planning, I’ll have the students write blog posts on an almost daily basis. As I envision it, I’d be able to have two RSS feeds for each of my students — one for their posts and one for the follow-up comments attached to each of their posts.

In short, what I’m looking for is a way to have Google Reader (or another service, if there is one) aggregate all the comments and responses to all my students’ blog posts in a centralized location so that I can read them without having to open page after page after page, or comment on all posts and then subscribe to all follow-up comments. I’ve come across a service called BackType, but this website seems primarily intended to track one’s own postings on various blogs rather than cull other people’s comments into a central location.

So, does anyone know of a service that accomplishes this goal or know of another work-around that would accomplish this goal? Any help would be appreciated — especially now as we’re headed into the summer’s denouement.

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3 thoughts on ““Help me Internet users savvier than myself, you’re my only hope!”

  1. Seth Battis says:

    Nate, if you have all your students posting via WordPress.com, could you subscribe to their comments feeds (https://nkogan.wordpress.com/comments/feed/, for example) and watch all the comments filter come down the pipe into your Reader? If you wanted to hand-tool it a little, you could take all of your students’ comment feeds and run them through Yahoo Pipes to create an aggregated feed for comments _by_ a particular student on everyone else’s blogs. Check out http://pipes.yahoo.com/pipes/pipe.info?_id=VObCPrl63hGd1LBdU5Wufg for an example that pulls out any comments that I have made on my own blog and on your blog.

    With the Better GReader script in place, I think you can actually post a comment to the blog from within Reader (since the preview creates an I-frame within the article pane that loads the actual page that the RSS feed refers to).

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