Monday, July 23, 2012

Information Redirection: RSS Feeds

"Where did you find out about that?"  I get asked this question a lot about the various links, information, and ideas that I share with colleagues and friends.  My usual and most likely answer (when it's not Facebook or Twitter) is my newsfeed.  

The understatement of the century is that there is a lot of information on the Internet and more and more gigabytes being added every minute.  Finding information is hard and sometimes, it feels like the proverbial needle in the haystack.  I’ve talked before about ways in which you can channel information to you, using Google Alerts, and today’s discussion of RSS feeds is another invaluable tool for someone who needs to stay abreast of information or wants to use the latest information to help inform and shape their students’ experience.  

This video help explains just what RSS feeds are and provide a good start to the conversation.  An alternative to the video is this site, which has a good clean description of what RSS does and how it does it.

One of the most ideal places to create a feed reader is of course Google Reader.  However, we cannot use Google Reader since it isn’t part of the Google tools allotted to us with our school Gmail accounts.  But if you have your own Google Account, it tends to be the best place.  Here’s a good place to find other recommendations on RSS Feeders.  One feature in an RSS reader that I find essential is the ability to create folders to put similar feeds into.  For instance, I might group RSS feeds on “gaming and education” into one folder while I might put feeds relating to community college education into another one.  

Once you know what kind of reader you’ll be using, you’ll then want to assemble the different sources to pile into it and organize your information.  If you are looking for ideas about what to follow and why, this site offers 100 different uses of RSS feeds.  

So What can using RSS do for your classroom?
  • You can require students to subscribe to a host of sites much like some instructors require students to subscribe to newspapers.  These feeds could be a different materials they need to consider before coming to class or sources they must consider in constructing a project. 
  • If you have students create blogs, you can use an RSS reader to feed all of their blogs into it, so you don't have to go to each individual one.
  • You can create a collection of RSS feeds within Angel (under Resources) and require students to draw upon those articles for class discussions, homework, or other class-relevant material.
For more information, you might also want to check out:
Have you used RSS Feeds?  What do you like/dislike about them?  Have you used them (or considered using them) in class?  What other ways do you foresee this being useful for teaching and instruction?