Untangling "the Web" Tip #2: Connecting to Special Needs Resources Through Blogs

So what is a blog anyway? For a full definition and in depth history that surely goes beyond what you are interested in, check out Wikipedia.:) But in a nutshell, the term "blog" is short for "web log" and blogs are websites where individuals and/ or groups record information, opinions, etc... on a regular basis. The "regular basis" is a key difference between most standard websites and a blog. Many blogs are updated at least on a monthly basis, some even daily, and this steady stream of new content is one reason why blogs are a great tool for finding resources for kids with special needs. Some blogs are about very specific topics (e.g., iPad Apps for Autism) and others are on broader categories of information (e.g., topics related to assertive technology or special education in general). The authors of special needs related blogs are often professionals, parents of children with special needs, or sometimes, companies who offer products and services related to special needs. The language on blogs is informal and the content is usually aimed to create conversation or "commenting". This open-ended nature of blogs makes them not only great sources to receive recorded information written by blog authors, but also amazing outlets for collaborating with others, asking questions, and sharing your own information about a topic.

You have already started your blog adventure by finding this blog :) Here are a few tips to help your broaden your blogging horizons to find the special needs information and resources you're looking for and to make sure you stay in the loop on current topics related to kids with special needs.

  • Since you're already here (and I'm so glad you are!), visit the "SNEAK's Fav Blogs" link on the SNEAK homepage (to the right, and scroll down) to connect with a starter list of great blogs that post information about various topics related to special needs (e.g., speech therapy, assertive technology, AAC, Apps, CVI). I update this link frequently and find these blogs to be top notch when it comes to reliable and innovative information. Of course, this is by no means a comprehensive list of blogs so keep reading the following tips to find out how to branch out form here! :) 
  • Blogs usually post a description of the topics and information you can expect to find on them somewhere on the main page (home page). Once you visit a blog, check out this description to see if the blog is right for you. If it is, you might want to consider subscribing to or "following" that blog. 
  • RSS Icon 
  • Most blogs allow readers to subscribe to their content. This is how you can get updated posts from your favorite blogs without having to check the blog daily to see if there are new posts. There are a few easy ways to get these updates.
    • Subscribe by Email: Many blogs allow you to follow them by email. By sharing your email address, you can receive emails from the blog anytime content is updated. Don't worry, most blogs will not send out any emails that are not related to content updates. In most cases, you will get one email per day that lists new posts that were added to that blog and allows you to read summaries within the email and link to the blog website for further reading. 
    • Subscribe to Posts/Comments: You might notice this icon on many blogs. This is the icon for an "RSS Feed". An RSS Feed is the way websites and blogs gather new information together and send it directly to you. "It allows you to easily stay informed by retrieving the latest content from the sites you are interested in. You save time by not needing to visit each site individually." (WhatisRSS.com) In order to receive an RSS Feed, you have to have an RSS Feed Reader. If you use mobile devices like the iPhone, Android phones, or iPad/Android tablets, there are many Reader apps that enable you to receive RSS Feeds from your favorite sites and blogs and read them at your leisure. There are also online RSS Feed Readers that allow you to access your RSS Feeds on your computer by signing into your reader. I have listed some great RSS Feed Reader apps and online Feed Readers at the end of this post. If you are a Yahoo or Google email subscriber, you might already have a Feed Reader at your fingertips and not even know it. :) 
    • Facebook and Twitter: As mentioned in my previous post, many websites, blogs included, have a Facebook page and will post the Facebook icon on their home page. For some blogs (SNEAK is one of them:), the updates posted on the blog site will also be shared on Facebook and Twitter (not sure about Twitter and how it relates to you, stay tuned for my next post:). So if you find it easier to just stay connected by these old, familiar friends, make sure you click on the Facebook and twitter icons of your favorite blogs so you can follow them and receive updates. 
  • Now that you've explored SNEAK's Fav Blogs and subscribed to your own favorites, make sure you check out the "Blogroll" link on the blogs you visit. Just like SNEAK, many blogs post a link on their home page that lists all of the blogs they support and enjoy (this is called a Blogroll). Just like with Facebook pages (see my previous post for a refresher:), you can connect with many branches of the topics you are interested in by exploring the blogs that your favorite bloggers are exploring (lol, what a mouthful!). 
  • Google to the rescue once again! You can search specifically for blogs related to the topics you want to know about right on the Google search page. To do this, go to Google and click on the top menu bar where it says "more". Scroll down the list until you see "Blogs" and click on that to bring you to a new search page ("Google Blogs"). Now type in your keywords in the search box and Google will return only those results that are found on blogs. 
RSS Feed Readers Bring Blog Updates Straight to You!

Here are some great RSS Feed Reader Apps (many are completely free!). I personally use Flipboard on my iPad because it turns my feeds into a magazine :)
AppAdvice.com's RSS Reader App List

Here are sine popular online RSS Feed Readers, completely free to use!
Google Reader (If you have a gmail account, you are already on your way!)
My Yahoo (click on the +My Yahoo icon on your favorite blogs to add their RSS Feeds to your My Yahoo homepage)

Hope these tips send you on your way to happy blogging! Next on the agenda for Untangling "the Web": Twitter :)

What are some of your favorite blogs?

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