RSS for Education

I have been an avid RSS user for quite some time now. I find it the only way to stay current with news, blogs, and the types of sites I enjoy. I think my reading habits have changed as a result of my RSS adoption … I read so much more stuff in such a short amount of time that it just blows my mind. I have tried all sorts of news readers — from web based sites like bloglines (my current tool) to desktop applications like NetNewsWire Pro (that I loved until they made me pay for it). To tell you the truth, the best part about using RSS to get news and information really has little to do with the tools you use, it is about the results.Yesterday I came across this report, “RSS Users Visit Three Times as Many News Web Sites as Non-Users” via Nielsen//NetRatings. It is a very simple look at how RSS effects people’s reading habits. If you look at it you’ll notice that they really looked at this in a very simple way. As simple as it is, it hits home the point — this technology has the potential to change the amount of content we are willing to browse. If I had to visit 10 news sites a day and slog through all the front page messes just to find the new content, I doubt I would take the time. Now jump up to the 130 feeds I have in my bloglines account … no way! In the RSS world, you subscribe and wait for the updates to be pushed to you. Simple. Effective. Quick.

This semester I am teaching and I have my students posting in a multi-user blog, the Blogs@110. Each student has their own blog and with it their own RSS feed. I can use the enhanced category/tag browser to create customized feeds that I can subscribe to. For example, I can see all items that are new that are “Assignments, Blog Entries, Podcasts” in a feed. That is such a time saver for me. In the past, I would have used a learning management system, some drop boxes, and a bunch of message boards to have stuents discuss and turn in work. To get to it, I would have to log in, navigate the system, and then get to the work. Fifteen minutes later I would usually find out that there isn’t any new content in the space. With the blog and RSS it just shows up in my bloglines account along with all my other feeds. Makes life so much easier.

What else is RSS good for? I’d love to know how it is getting used in your classrooms or in your lives in general. Drop a comment and let me know.

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