Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Google Alert for Faculty and Students

I’m a big fan of Google Alert.  Over the years, it’s delivered valuable information into my inbox time and again; saving me time, providing me with leads, and on occasion, some rather curious pieces of information.  

So what is Google Alerts?  It’s one of the many different services offered by Google, which is accessible to faculty and students within their school email accounts.  To access it, you can simple go to this address or when in your School Email, click on the "More" link at the top of the page.  This will drop down a menu and you'll want to select the link "Even more".  This will bring you to the Google Products page.  Scroll down the page to "Specialized Search" and look for "Alerts."  

Once on the Google Alerts page, you're ready to start using it.  You have a few options.    

Search Query
Enter the word or phrase what you want to Google to send you an alert about.  Choose a singular word or if it is a phrase, surround it with quotation marks. 

Result Type
You can choose specifically where one the internet that Google will specifically look for your term; newspapers, blogs, video sites, discussion boards, etc.

How often
This option allows you to control how many times Google will send you emails about its search.

How many
The quality and quantity of results that you are looking for.  Do you want everything Google finds or just the more respectable results? 

Deliver to
Which email address should this be delivered to.

Fill all of that out, press "Create Alert" and you have your first Google Alert.  Once you have created a Google Alert and want to change it, all you have to do is go to Manage Your Alerts and change and delete them as you desire.  

So why use Google Alert?
Research is the easiest answer.  This allows you to stay atop of certain pieces of information or ideas out in the Internet and bring them to your mailbox, rather than you having to scour the internet to find them.  

Many, including myself, use it to keep track of where and when their names come up in print.  Having a Google Alert on your name lets you know if you or your work is being referenced in some capacity.  

It's also a nice tool to use throughout the semester, to bring you fresh news stories about a topic matter within your class, so you can provide students with some of the more recent events/information about your subject matter.

Currently, here are some of my Google Alerts:
  • Research topics:  "video games and education"
  • What's going on in my community:  "Peabody, Massachusetts"
  • What's going on at my employment:  "North Shore Community College"
  • Cultural events I might be interested in, "book signing Massachusetts"

How about using Google Alert in the classroom?
There are some fun and interesting ways you could use this in the class.  

Assign each student one or more specified key word, event, topic, person, etc to trace and track throughout the semester by using Google Alert and then compose an essay, report, presentation, timeline, etc based upon their findings.  

  • What ways do you think you could use Google Alerts for your own professional development?
  • What ways do you think you could use Google Alerts for the classroom?
  • How could this flow of information improve or help you?