It’s all Greek to me…
Before this week, I did not know much about RSS. To be honest, I knew it existed, but not necessarily what it was, did, or how it could be beneficial to me. I spent a fair amount of time researching the concept and have boiled it down to a simpler way to receive information. Instead of having to seek out information, new posts and updates are localized into one, user-friendly feed. One video I watched compared it to the relationship between Netflix and a video store. RSS is Netflix because the movies come to you, while traditional methods of scouring and searching for recent updates and posts is the video store because you have to put on pants, go out, and rent a movie. Check out the video here if you’re new to RSS:
… But if I can do it, so can you!
For this assignment, I explored the RSS reader called Digg Reader. This reader proved to be extremely simple to use and set up. I particularly enjoyed the Google Chrome extension that allowed me to add to my feed just by clicking on a button when I visited an appealing site. Previously, I relied on bookmarking to save my favorite sites and blogs, but Digg Reader has proved to be an organization lifesaver. Here is a screenshot of my Digg Reader feed:
Take a peek into my plans…
As an elementary educator, I became intrigued by the possibilities of RSS professionally and in my classroom.
First, professionally, I love the idea of having my favorite blogs and helpful resources in a centralized feed. Instead of spending extra time migrating between websites or having to remember helpful sites or blogs, I can organize my professional blogs in one place and in different categories. Currently, I have three folders: Techy Tech, for educational technology blogs, Fifth Grade, for grade level specific blogs I have previously explored, and Learning Logs, for the learning logs of my Masters program peers. Similar to my Facebook feed, I can select one of my categories, or view all of my feeds simultaneously, and the most recent posts are listed chronologically. Each post includes the title of the post along with a short preview of what the rest of the post includes. The ease of navigating this feed allows me to compare lots of different blogs I enjoy in a localized place. Now, instead of flipping back and forth and sometimes never finding anything, I can scroll through a list of recent postings and select those that appeal to me.
Second, I am interested in using RSS feeds to help students access kid-friendly news. One of my goals as an upper elementary teacher is to cultivate a strong love of reading. I believe that part of that cultivation is giving students choices in deciding what to read and RSS offers a great tool to do just that. A classroom RSS feed that students can access allows them to have engaging and relevant content at their fingertips, for FREE. From the initial setup, the possibilities are endless because, essentially, students have a platform from which to read and interact with a variety of texts right away. One lesson extension would be to have kids find an article, read it, and respond to what they read in a blog entry. Then, students could read and respond to each other’s blog posts, or just read what one another are reading. In this example, RSS serves as a springboard to authentic reading and writing opportunities. One blogger I currently subscribe to, Brad Wilson of 21Innovate, created a great list of kid friendly RSS feeds to subscribe to that help students find articles they are interested in. I have shared his list below:
Scholastic News Online (feed link)
Weekly Reader (feed link)
The Week in Rap (feed link)
Another way to utilize RSS with students is using it to streamline research or information gathering. Currently, my class website often has a collection of links to other student approved and accessible websites for students to go to learn more about the topic of study. RSS offers a simplification of the research process because students would receive a preview of the web content to see if it is relevant to their topic, but it would be focused to teacher selected and approved sources. Therefore, it allows for both teacher guidance and student choice. For example, during a science unit on adaptations, I could set up an RSS feed with Science News for Kids, Science Buzz, Discovery Channel Headlines, and others that would allow my kids to seek out current information that is relevant to our class exploration.
Furthermore, RSS allows for differentiation of content, specifically students who are unable to read a text could access audio-based content. For instance, the Colonial Williamsburg RSS audio feed is an exciting tool for my 13 Colonies unit because it would allow my students an additional way to access the social studies content. Technology in all its forms, but particularly RSS, offers unique and practical differentiation opportunities.
Finally, RSS offers great potential for broadening student’s horizons. Currently, I teach in a fairly homogenous, affluent community, so it is essential to my teaching that I expose students to cultures and experiences different than their own. Through RSS, I can create authentic opportunities for students to formulate their own opinion and examine where it fits into a larger, global dialogue. For example, during my Native American unit, students could explore RSS feeds like Cherokee Nation or First Nations History to compare and contrast their lives with the lives of people of a different culture. In this way, RSS feeds would both make the world a little smaller and my students a little more globally minded and culturally sensitive.
RSS seems like an essential tool to navigating a world of information overload for educators and students alike.