It’s All Coming Together – One Feed at a Time

RSS – Real Simple Syndication or Rich Site Summary

Learning web 2.0 is just like learning anything else – just when I think I know it all, I find out how little I know! Imagine me sitting reading the chapter on RSS: The New Killer App for Educators in Will Richardson’s Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts: and other powerful web tools for classrooms – with my mouth open and jaw dropped. I must have looked as ridiculous as I felt. (RSS information is also available at Will Richardson’s Blog @ http://weblogg-ed.com/ – click the RSS Guide Tab along the top)

Let me back up a bit. I’ve been using Bloglines as my news aggregator for over a year – adding and dropping subscriptions until I had a nice little list of feeds that I found useful.

I’ve chosen to stay with Bloglines because it’s web-based and I can login to it on any networked computer. I’ve installed the Bloglines notifier on my home computer so I’m reminded to check it regularly.

Most recently I added my web 2.0 learning buddies’ blogs and a few notable teacher-librarian web 2.0 bloggers. I deleted some of the subscriptions that I found weren’t relevant. I added the RSS for comments to my VoiceThreads, Flickr posts, my school blog and this blog, leaving me with about 30 quite manageable titles. I created playlists to help me skim through the most relevant feeds when I was really busy. I learned to “Keep New” those posts or comments that I wanted to remember to read more fully or re-read when I had more time.

I learned from Will Richardson’s book that I was just scratching the surface and unaware of the most powerful applications for education.

This describes my foray into RSS yesterday thanks to what I learned from Will:

  1. The first thing I learned to do was to go to Google News and try some searches relevant to my current course of study. I decided to add the news feeds related to “web 2.0 in education” (and news feeds related to “Rhonda Morrissette” – even though at the moment the list is EMPTY).
  2. Next stop? Google Bloggers where I searched for myself, the newbie blogger “Rhonda Morrissette” and added that feed to my Bloglines as well.
  3. I continued my journey in Delicious where I found my teacher friend from Pennsylvania with similar bookmarks (bookwyrmish) and added her recent and upcoming bookmarks to my Bloglines RSS aggregator.
  4. I created an account at Technorati.com and realized a little more about what I’ve been missing! I learned I could “Claim my blog” here and increase it’s visibility (I’m not entirely sure what this means yet – I’ll keep you posted!). In the section called “Blogger Central”, I discovered that I could create a watchlist of search terms, much like in Google Blogger. I’m not usually an egomaniac, but I decided to create my first watchlist as another vanity list and using my name – only to experience quite a blow to my ego. I got this message: “There are no posts in English with some authority (or any authority) containing “Rhonda Morrissette”. I decided to add this subscription to Bloglines anyway because I dream that someday this may change. There is a still lot more about Technorati that I intend to explore.
  5. My last stop was to Googlealerts.com where I created a free trial account. This trial account allowed me to define three search terms from a search of all Google sites. I decided I better not use my 3 trial searches on my name or blog name this time. I chose 3 terms that may be useful to me in my upcoming learning about technology and school libraries and settled on these:
  • technology school library
  • literacy with ICT
  • technology teacher librarian

I now have 40+ manageable feeds in total, including the ones I’ve just added from Google News, Delicious, Google Blogger, and Technorati watchlists.

bloglines1

Vanity Feeds:

There are some very good reasons bloggers may want to keep a watchlist of their name, blog and record of who is referencing or linking to your blog. Darren Rowse lists and fully explains the following compelling five reasons in his post entitled: Reasons to Have a Vanity Folder in Your News Aggregator:

  • Engage in Conversation
  • Build Relationships
  • Track Success of Posts
  • Correcting Errors and Damage Control
  • Find Plagiarists

RSS and Educational Practice:

So what are the most powerful applications for educational practice? In his book Wikis, Blogs and Podcasts Will Richardson points out the following:

Students can:

  • add feeds for their teacher’s blogs, and if applicable, fellow student blogs
  • use as a research tool by adding feeds for search terms from Google News or Yahoo News
  • keep track of their teacher’s and fellow students new bookmarks through Delicious
  • form a search of Google sites on research topics using Googlealerts.com

Mr. Byrne lists four possible applications for education in 34 Ways to Use RSS.

I’ve read how Joyce Valenza has helped students organize their research and learning by guiding them to add RSS feeds to their Google Reader . ” I absolutely love iGoogle and plan to continue to work with our classes as students set up individual information portals.”( PageFlakes as Current Events Pathfinders September 9, 2008 )

In What not to teach (about searching), Joyce states:

Students should also learn to set up RSS readers or aggregators (perhaps using Google Reader or Bloglines) to have relevant news sent to them as it breaks. . . Students can easily select RSS feeds as gadgets on an iGoogle page. . . And students may want to keep track of their favorite resources (free and subscription) using a bookmarking tool like Technorati. ( March 18, 2008)

The Continuing Journey:

I’d still like to learn more about how others are integrating or infusing the use of RSS into educational practice, so I’m using the following strategies (any resemblance to the strategies used in a popular game show are not entirely coincidental!)

1. Ask a friend – I decided to ask the most tech. savvy and experienced blogger of my 18 year old daughter’s group of friends (Jess) what she knew about RSS feeds. Her reply was a tentative “Rhonda Says Supper’sready?” Needless to say, she eats over a lot. Although this was not entirely the answer I was hoping for, it was illuminating. I would guess that many students haven’t been taught how to organize and optimize their search of the wild, wild web yet.

2. Survey the crowd – I visited my social networking communities looking for ideas. I posted a question on Twitter and examined the discussion threads in the More things: Applying 2.0 tools group in the TeacherLibrarianNing and the Classroom 2.0 Ning. Sixteen minutes later I got a reply from buffyjhamilton on Twitter to try this resource: http://delicious.com/teach21.validresources/rss . It’s an AWESOME resource! I added the RSS feed for it to my aggregator.

3. Ask an expert – When studying social bookmarking uses in education, I learned Donna DesRoches had written social bookmarking into the ninth-grade information literacy skills continuum in her Saskatchewan school division. (see her blog post: “All Together Now”). I decided to message her directly to ask out how RSS is being integrated in her school division.

4. Ask the audience – That’s You! How are you integrating/infusing RSS into your educational practice?

Listen to this post courtesy of Talkr.com

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4 Responses to It’s All Coming Together – One Feed at a Time

  1. Minty says:

    very nice article.thanks

  2. Sandra Lawrence says:

    Rhona,
    Your post is very informative. I, too, have found Will’s book to be very helpful. Actually, I have not done much with RSS, but intend to and the details of your exploration are very helpful. I’m going to a conference this week sponsored by MassCue and Will is one of the featured speakers, so that should be great. If you are interested in how I am going about learning about these web-based tools, check out my blog. thanks, again. Sandy

  3. Joanne de Groot says:

    Thanks, Rhonda. You have given me lots of ideas for things I should be looking at more closely when I have a minute! I used to use Bloglines and loved it…have since moved to Google Reader because I decided I needed fewer passwords in my life! I like that Google Reader connects directly to my iGoogle page so I can read my blogs from there. Right now I use RSS mostly for my blogs, but I know I am missing out on lots of other ways that I could be using my feeds…I need to work on that!

  4. Jes says:

    Hi Rhonda,
    Thanks for all of those useful tips – I will need to check some of these out over the Christmas break. After reading your post, I clearly have not used Bloglines to its full potential.
    Jes

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