Archive for December, 2007|Monthly archive page

Google to the Rescue

Okay students AND parents, here’s what you’ve all been waiting for…the chance to know what is going on here at my blog and in our classroom without having to search around and look all over the place. Our dear friends at Google are developing ways to make life easier and easier…here are three programs that they offer that will do just that.

First, one some of you are already familiar with, Google Calendar. If you look to the right, you can see exactly what I’m talking about. When you follow the link to the Sunfish Team Academic Calendar you will see a monthly calendar that can be updated with due dates for assignments, daily homework, notices about school events, and pretty much anything else Sunfish or BCMS related. This is a Google Calendar. Though only the Sunfish teachers have access to edit it, all of you have access to see the items posted to it. This calendar can be used as a base calendar for you to schedule events around or you can just keep checking it to see when things are due for our team.

Second, is a newer offering from Google: Google Reader. One of the latest things to hit the web is RSS, which stands for Really Simple Syndication. My two blogs are updated nearly every day. However, on the off chance that I don’t update it one day, how is one to know when things change around here? Google Reader allows you to do just that. When you subscribe to my blog’s RSS feed everything I post shows up in Google Reader. Think of it as a newspaper sending you just the articles you want, when they’re published, right to your doorstep. Subscribing to both of my blogs (or just the homework blog) will allow you to look in one place for anything new whenever it’s added.

Think all this sounds great? Think all this sounds like way too much work? Enter the third of Google’s new programs: iGoogle. iGoogle modifies your regular Google homepage (assuming Google is your homepage, like many people) to add things you are interested in right at your fingertips. Your iGoogle page can display your Google Reader files, your Google Calendar and a daily agenda, your Google Docs (I won’t even get into this one right now, but will tackle it later), and any of hundreds of other items. My iGoogle page has a search box for Wikipedia, links to my del.i.cious bookmarks, and a tab devoted to daily news which displays the top headlines from 12 different online news websites.


Want to set this up and make your life easier? Here’s what you need to do…

1. Sign up for a free Google account. To do this, go to and in the upper right hand corner, click “Sign In”. At the bottom on the right, click “Create an Account Now”. The next page will ask you for a current email address, have you set up a password, and have you type in a list of letters to verify that you really exist. Google will send an email to the address provided which will include a link that activates your Google account.

2. Switch over to iGoogle. From the classic Google homepage you should see your email address near the top right. Beside your email address it should say “iGoogle”. Click this link. You will be given a list of “Interest” options and the chance to select a theme. You do not have to select any of these or change your theme. Each “Interest” will add a tab to your iGoogle page with news from several sources about your interest (like my News tab, mentioned above). The themes just change the look of the Google page. For example, the Beach theme (the second option) shows a beach scene surrounding your Google search box that can be customized to this time zone so that whenever you look at it, the sun has moved to match the time!

3. Set up your iGoogle. Once you have the tabs and theme set, it’s now time to make sure you have Google Calendar and Google Reader available. There are seven things that come standard with iGoogle: Google News,, Weather, Google Calendar, How To of the Day, Date & Time, and YouTube videos. By clicking the ‘x’ in the corner of any of these boxes, they can be removed. DON’T get rid of Google Calendar if you want the Sunfish Calendar available. Each item is moveable so if you want Google Calendar near the top, it can be moved to the top of any of the three columns and the other items will adjust to the new position.

4. Add Google Reader. To add Google Reader, click the link that says “Add Stuff”. On the right is a search box that says “Search for Gadgets”. In this box type, Google Reader and hit search. The first option should come back as Google Reader (Labs) and on the left should be a button to “Add it Now”. Click this button and then return to your iGoogle home page.

5. Set up Google Calendar. From your iGoogle page, click the link to Google Calendar. Google will ask for your password again. Type your password and Sign In to Google Calendar. Google will then ask for your Name and another verification email will be sent to your email address. Google Calendar sets up a personal calendar that you can edit, add to, change, etc. To add the Sunfish Team Academic Calendar, click the button on the left that says “Add”. In the dropdown menu, choose “Add a Public Calendar”. In the search box at the top, type “Sunfish Team Academic Calendar”. When you click “Search Public Calendars” only one should show up. Clicking “Add to Calendar” will give you access to see all events posted to the Sunfish Team calendar, but not to edit them. That’s all you have to do to add the Sunfish Team calendar to your iGoogle page. Clicking the “Web” link at the top left will take you back to your iGoogle. Click “Show Agenda” to see a weekly agenda for your Google Calendars.

6. Set up Google Reader. In the middle of the box, click the link that says “Sign up for Google Reader”. This will take you to the Google Reader page. On the left is a link that says “Add Subscription”. This is where you will add my two blogs (or just the homework one if that’s all you’re interested in). In the textbox, type (or copy and paste): for this blog OR for the homework blog

Click the add button and you should have a list of recent posts to either blog. If you want to add the other blog, simply Add another subscription. Return to your iGoogle page and it should be all set up for you.

7. Pat yourself on the back! YOU DID IT! That’s all there is to it. You now have the option of setting iGoogle as your homepage by clicking Yes beside Make iGoogle your homepage, or logging in to your Google account to check all the goings-on at Mr. Williamson’s Science Blog.

Please leave me a comment if you decide to set up an iGoogle page and feel free to let me know if you have difficulties, I’ll try and help you get through the process. Check back for screenshots of the process in a few days.