on alert…

No, not Hawaii Emergency Management Agency practice alerts! Google alerts…

One of the things I have been doing this month is working with 10th graders in one of our Mid-Pacific eXploratory (MPX) Humanities classes. Students have been building research outlines for debates on U.S. History oriented topics.

  • The US should allow undocumented immigrants currently in the U.S. a pathway to citizenship.
  • The US should consider implementing a single-payer health care system for all.
  • The #Metoo movement has done more good than harm.
  • Sit-lie bans should be repealed.
  • The U.S. should have stricter gun control laws.

We recommended our standard debate and current events database for 10th graders:

  • Opposing ViewPoints from Gale
  • Issues and Controversies from Infobase
  • Issues from ABC-CLIO
  • MasterFile Complete for current events
  • Statista for statistical evidence

Given the the currency of most of the topics in Congress at the moment, it seemed like a nice opportunity to introduce students to Google Alerts.

If you haven’t used Google Alerts before you basically sign in to your Google Account then go to https://www.google.com/alerts

Screen Shot 2018-02-13 at 1.00.59 PM

Enter your initial search query.

Screen Shot 2018-02-13 at 1.01.32 PM

Once you have an initial search query, you will see an Alert preview at the bottom of the page. Check this preview to be sure that you are getting helpful results.

Screen Shot 2018-02-13 at 1.07.57 PM

If your preview results look good, you can go into your Alert options to set the Alert parameters.

Screen Shot 2018-02-13 at 1.09.55 PM

A nice option for students doing research on global topics is to set the region for a non-North American region.

Screen Shot 2018-02-13 at 1.31.46 PM

Alerts are delivered to your email inbox like this. The links take you out to the original article.

As is my wont, when I was thinking about introducing Alerts to my kids for the first time, I sent a query out to the list and received these very helpful tips.

From Tasha Bergson-Michelson:

I do teach some students to set up alerts. Make sure they look at/think abut all the options. Depending on the length of the project, I like to have them go back in about 2 weeks after setting them up and tweak their search. Honestly, they can feel aggravated by what they get, and should be empowered to change it, rather than ignore it.  Wonder if you could have them print and annotate the search results from the first several results they receive to decide how to tweak.

Or, run the search they are putting in the alert and annotate those results?

Something to make it a more thoughtful process, set up for success.

From Shelagh Straughan:

My main thing is that I encourage kids to be very deliberate with their alert query (eg. use a search string that has already had success) so that they’re not inundated with irrelevant stuff!

From Alicia Kalan:

I teach Google Alerts for a similar research / debate project with juniors and just have to remind them to set the alerts once a day instead of “as-it-happens” to keep their inbox more manageable and to set the sources to “news” instead of automatic. But I think the big thing, while it seems simple, is just reminding / showing them how to turn the alerts off after the project is done. 

If you haven’t thought about Google Alerts, give them a try. I’m considering suggesting that we have students set up an Alert for their names and user names as part of our work in the digital citizenship arena.

How are you using Google Alerts?

If they’re new to you, how might you use them?

I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas!


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3 Responses to on alert…

  1. Jennifer Falvey says:

    Great post, Dave–thanks!
    I’ve just been in the 9th grade classes introducing them to our databases and Google Scholar, and we talked about Alerts also. They, of course, loved the idea of being able to set alerts for stories about their favorite sports teams or celebrities. Hey–any practice is good practice, I say! 😀

  2. Hi Dave and All,

    Thanks for this great post–I haven’t introduced our kids to Alerts, but I will be in the next couple of days as I work with the 9th grade on researching for their Oration project. Love new tools!

    Dave, what is the super-fab screen capture or snipping tool you’re using? Does it include the space for comments and directions at the bottom, or did you add that?


    • David Wee says:

      Hi Ellen,
      They are just regular screenshots (Command+Shift+4 on a Mac or Snipping Tool on a PC). The captions are a function built into the WordPress editor. When we upload an image it gives us the option to add a caption. The editor in Blogger does the same thing. Haven’t sought one out myself, but I’d be amazed if there weren’t a good Chrome extension that would let you add captions to a photo that would let you add captions. 🙂

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