Reading Carrie Mumford’s article, “How to Set Up RSS For Your Blog,” brought a smile to my face when she said, “it seems that RSS works for a technically inclined sub-set of the population, but overall, it’s not well-known.” Before learning about RSS feeds, I might have held a similar belief. Now, of course, I see RSS feeds quite differently. Ironically the author admitted that she isn’t too sure how beneficial these feeds are, yet she made her feed available to readers.
Fortunately a technically inclined sub-set realized that, “feeds help make web content a powerful communication tool.” (D’Souza, n.d.) Simply put, blogs and news websites “use pull technology like RSS to engage people, resources and information.” (D’Souza, n.d.) All the heavy lifting may be done by the RSS feeds and its reader, but the user decides what is ‘pulled’. Users sign up for feeds and the reader (eg. Google Reader) brings the feeds together in one location allowing users to peruse Mumford’s latest blog entry or BBC World’s current headlines.
Educators and their students can benefit from this wonderful application as well — even if they aren’t a technically inclined subset. For educators, RSS feeds are effective because they:
- create a set of resources that can be accessed on any internet connected device
- keep users current on topics that are of interest
- merge and / or track authors, journalists and news that is important to the user
- conduct research that can be shared with peers or students
- strengthen professional development
- pull blogs together into one area for easy tracking
- enable immediate feedback (without using reams of paper)
- track student progress or classroom discussions
- share subject specific feeds with students and peers
- update new information and send out reminders
- reduce reading time
Students benefit by using RSS feeds as well, and for similar reasons; yet educators like Will Richardson insist that one of the most important advantages for students is that “it’s kind of like doing research 24/7, only the RSS feed does all the work.” This suggest that, if a tool is easy to use, it will be readily adopted. However, students will also benefit from RSS feeds because they:
- offer choice, which is empowering
- support self-paced learning
- keep students informed
- save time (efficient, easy to use)
- foster participation
- encourage community building for users
Clearly RSS feeds are beneficial. Whether you are technologically savvy or not, feeds are a simple tool that foster learning and support teaching. Next time you visit a favourite website look for the RSS symbol (image below); one click will change your world forever (with the help of a reader of course).
You can visit my “education” feed, here. I have also included this feed on my learning blog (using a WordPress RSS widget).
The Wordle, or beautiful word cloud, included above captures the essence of my education feeds (on September 27, 2012). Prominent words in the cloud are larger and indicate which words appeared more often in these feeds. Using a word cloud this way encourages “trend spotting”.
D’Souza, Q. (n.d.). RRS Ideas for Educators. http://www.teachinghacks.com. Retrieved September 28, 2012, from http://www.teachinghacks.com/wp-content/uploads/2006/01/RSS%20Ideas%
Feinberg, J. (2011). Wordle – Beautiful Word Clouds. Wordle – Beautiful Word Clouds. Retrieved September 29, 2012, from http://www.wordle.net/
Richardson, W. (2005, March 29). RSS: A Quick Start Guide for Educators. weblogg-ed.com. Retrieved September 28, 2012, from weblogg-ed.com/wp-content/uploads/2006/05/RSSFAQ4.pdf