We can all agree that among all the reading strategies educators use to improve reading skills, simply fostering a love for reading is one of our most important efforts. In order for students to be good readers, they must read and read a lot.
How do we get students to read?
Not unlike adults, students enjoy reading content that they have interest in.
Cultivating a love for reading begins with providing relevant and engaging reading material in which students can connect with. The web and its content can provide just that-material that is both current and meaningful.
But wading through masses of information proves to be a difficult task, and often results in data overload. Teaching students how to use a digital tool such as an RSS feed can streamline and simplfy web content while encouraging active personal reading.
Admittingly, I was slow to begin utilizing RSS Feeds until I started to lose track of what I wanted to read and where it came from. It was compareable to marking magazine articles for later reading and becoming overwhelmed when the stacks started to accumulate. I was constantly asking myself where I had read that useful piece of information and how I was going to find it again. By using RSS Feeds along with a feed collector, I was able to have content delivered to me rather than constantly searching for content.
What is an RSS Feed?
RSS stand for Rich Site Summary or Real Simple Syndication. So, what exactly does that mean?
Weblogs and other sites create a code in a language called XML. Commonly referred to as a “feed”, this code makes it possbible for readers to subscribe to the content created on specific sites, therefore diminshing the need to visit multiple sites to keep up with information. In other words, feed collectors display currents posts from weblogs and websites that you have subscribed to and alerts you of new content.
For instance, as an instructional technology coach, I am constantly searching for information relating to ed tech. Numerous sites disperse interesting information on a regular basis and rather than clicking through each site, I use an aggregator such as Bloglines.com which puts all that information into one neat package. With this type of software called an aggregator or feed collector, content that I subscribe to is refreshed every hour and stored for my reading pleasure. My aggregator allows me to read the content, share it, store it for later, or delete it as I deem necessary.
What about those sites that you subscribe to that delivers news and information via email? Your aggregator can collect feeds from these sites and ultimately provide you with ad free, spam free, and virus free content that is cued up for you to read at your convenience.
How can we use an RSS Feed in the classroom?
- If your students are blogging, your aggregator can collect their posts using their RSS Feeds. Student work can be read, organized, and even shared with others.
- Allow your students to set up their own account using a news aggregator such as Bloglines.com. Topic specific research becomes easier as students can collect information and organize it in one location.
- Set up a Bloglines.com account with your students to promote active personal reading. Encourage them to subscribe to feeds on topics that interest them and share information with you and their peers.
- For teachers: Subscribing to various feeds is an ideal way to stay current on topics relating to teaching and learning.
RSS Feeds resource list:
Educators’ Guide to RSS and Google Reader Replacements by Sue Waters
Blogging and RSS — The “What’s It?” and “How To” of Powerful New Web Tools for Educators
by Will Richardson, Supervisor of Instructional Technology, Hunterdon Central Regional High School
WebTools4u2use– A Wiki with useful information on how to get started with RSS Feeds and feed collectors.
As the school year comes to an end, I highly recommend adopting RSS Feeds as a summer project. Not only a powerful tool to foster active reading in your students, feeds can also bring useful content to educators and serve as a solid professional development tool.
How are you using RSS Feeds in the fields of teaching and learning?