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Web 2 Tools For Schools - RSS
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Web 2 Tools for Schools - RSS

Really Simple Syndication is a Richly Satisfying Strategy for Reaching School Students.

Today's theme is RSS, just in case you hadn't noticed. RSS feeds are everywhere and so they should be. The internet has thrown up an interesting dilemma. We can no longer access data sources from a card file or microfiche. We cannot visit a librarian and ask about the latest developments in the weather patterns across the East Coast of the USA.

The web is generating so much information on a daily basis that we have to find a system to keep us focussed on the relevant and off the irrelevant. We need a method to bring latest news to our fingertips without having to spend days trying to find it.

Let me ask a question; how did you complete your assignments when you were at school? If you are under 30, ask a parent or older siblings what they did. I went to libraries, made photocopies of anything that might be vaguely relevant and threw most of the paper away. My Dad did a lot of my drawings (with acknowledgment of course) and I bought these little project folders from newsagents to add colourful images, or even calligraphic script headings and subheadings to my work. Amateur!

Now ask someone under 20 how they do their assignments. Question task - word doc or pdf, research - online google, wikipedia or other, presentation - word or powerpoint, images - downloaded and perhaps photoshopped for inclusion, graphs - generated in Excel and embedded in the presentation, videos - maybe, podcasts - possibly. Life is now full of Windows and Apples and there is no going back.

If you sense a change in the tide, you can try to hold it back, or you can relax and go with the flow. Either way, if the tide goes out it goes out; with or without your resistance. That's what's happening with web 2.0 tools. Blogs and wikis are wonderful teaching and learning tools. So is RSS.

To take best advantage of RSS, set up an aggregator (something which brings all the sources of data you wish to view into the one place). There are a number of aggregators available, however I have been using Google Reader. This application allows me to add a subscription based on any set of key words I choose and waits for me to confirm my selections. Once set up I can view all the latest posts and articles, videos and podcasts all in the one place. The application is so simple I use it for news, sport, science updates, academic publications, technology developments and more. The tag and folder structures make it easy to organise my subscriptions and each time I find something new I like, I can add it simply with a click or two. I just need to remember to visit it each day, because there is always something new to read.

As a teaching tool, RSS can be used to show students how to gather research for a particular topic, how to skim and scan text for the most relevant information and how to check the reliability and validity of material. You can also teach students about time management and acknowledging sources. This is a powerful addition to your education technology integration toolkit. It's so versatile it can be used in any subject, increasing effective multidiscplinary cohesion.

If you are looking for an organisational tool to help you navigate your way through the millions of daily posts to the net, RSS may be just the solution you need.


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