RSS Use in the Classroom

The Death of RSS?
Module 8 for TEC-950 focused on RSS. I began this module over a month ago and discovered Feedly and quickly set up an account and added some different blogs and websites to it. I installed the app on my phone so I could monitor the feed and have found in the past month that I really don't use it and don't anticipate that changing either for personal, professional or educational use.

Here's why. Most of the sites I added are those that I am already familiar with on Twitter, Google+, or have discovered on Flipboard. These three services I use regularly. An RSS Feed only duplicates things that I am already aware of. I used the search function in Feedly to find new content but found the process cumbersome. I think this is why increasingly RSS readers are dying and unsupported. They were from a time when content wasn't available dynamically from sources such as Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ but rather only from the original source. As a result, a need arose for a means to curate information from a variety of sources. However as information is increasingly delivered via Social Media, this process becomes redundant. For someone not using Social Media in this manner, I could see the value of subscribing to RSS feeds.

I do like Flipboard and have been a regular user of it for many years because it allows for customization of content but isn't narrowed by known sources such as was my experience with Feedly. It allows for discovery from new sources based on user behavior, along with following different user-created magazines. Not surprisingly, the visual layout is also very appealing to me. Within the classroom, Flipboard could be used by students to curate magazines, from multiple sources on a particular topic. Although I have found Flipboard magazines difficult to embed in Google Sites in the past, it was easy to add a gadget to this site. Flipboard is constantly updating their services. Yesterday, they launched private magazines for groups which offers a lot of collaboration, curation, and publishing possibilities for the classroom, especially where privacy might be a concern. Magazines could be created that focus on a certain assignment with all students work available in a one easily accessible location that is visually appealing.

Within the classroom, RSS could still be useful as a means of managing content for students. I can see current event feeds to be extremely useful in different contexts. From the teacher perspective, setting up an RSS feed of student blogs would be a boom for productivity but this woud only function on publicly accessible blogs.

Wikis

Wikis always make me visualize tikis.
Module 7 in TEC-950 was exploration of Wikis which are not a readily used tool in my tech toolbox. After exploration, I have an idea as to why. First, I never had the experience of contributing to a wiki before. I never realized how easy it was. I created a Wikipedia account and found a place where I could easily put the fact that misspelled words create a physiological response to immediate work. Edits were quick and pages available for editing were even suggested. It was crazy simple. I can see multiple opportunities for teachers and students. Rather than demonizing Wikipedia for research purposes, it seems like the perfect place to have students evaluate the credibility of soures or even practice editing. If sources are inaccurate, empower students to be part of the solution. In order to do this you must trust students and believe in their contributions to knowledge. I found contributing to a page about Web 2.0 tools also extremely easy and intuitive

What was difficult was creating my own wiki. Not from a technical standpoint but rather a logistical one when considering how I might use in my current role. Logging into wikispaces, I already had an account and had a wiki that I created last year as a pilot for 2nd grade teachers. It was quickly abandoned because it generated little interest. However, when the information was posted on a google site via embedded pdf document it was readily used. It made me realize why it failed. Wikis are built upon a mindset that knowledge is free and everybody has a contribution. There is also a level of trust that is extended to contributers that is described as SoftSecurity in the readings. However, in an environment where Teachers Pay Teachers for resources, many teachers work behind closed doors and are reluctant to share, a wiki seems completely foreign. A wiki is by design interactive as opposed to a typical web site which is passive in comparison.

This is the power of using a wiki in the classroom. It empowers students and reinforces the mindset that students have knowledge to contribute. However if teachers are to use this tool or any other Web 2.0 tool in the classroom, there needs to a certain level of personal proficiency as well as clarity of purpose around the tool. Moving forward, I want to find authentic opportunities within my own role to expose teachers to using wikis themselves so they are more inclined to use in the classroom. If teachers are able to experience wikis from the perspective as author and contributor, they can see the power of wikis and experience the simple user interface. Then, teachers will be better prepared to do use wikis for thier intended purpose within their classrooms.