Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Why is RSS important for the classroom?

In Blogging4Educators week three, we are discussing RSS and tagging. So far, a lot of the reflections on the use of RSS have focused on using a feed reader to keep current on updates to students' blogs.

After reading "The Technology of Reading and Writing in a Digital Space: Why RSS is Crucial for a Blogging Classroom" by David Parry, I realized that using RSS in the above-mentioned way allows students to become better writers. According to Parry, when students know their work is being read by not only the teacher, but also their classmates, and when they understand that their writing is linked and connected to other articles online, a new form of "authorship" emerges. I think that when student bloggers realize that others are subscribed to their blog feeds, then they have an audience in mind when they're writing; in turn, the student bloggers realize the responsibility they have for providing links and accurate information for those readers.

However, one concept about RSS that I found even more interesting was the section of Parry's article called "Why it [RSS] Matters for Student Writing". I found myself identifying with the following quote:

The amount of information on the web is overwhelming to say the least. I could spend the rest of my life reading Wikipedia and would probably never finish. While this is also true of a large library (say here at the University at Albany) as well, the tools one uses to navigate the library, a static electronic database easily searchable by author, title, or book, is clearly inadequate for the web.

How many times have teachers assigned research projects on topics which there are plenty of print and online sources, only to hear that students are having trouble locating sources? It isn't that a lack of sources on the topic exist, but it just may be that students become overwhelmed by the volume of information available to them online, and cannot identify the most important or relevant online sources. Parry explains how RSS can come to the rescue, and help students to develop their reading skills.

For example, if you were teaching a class on the Holocaust you could require that students subscribe to feeds that related to the recent trials of Holocaust deniers in Germany, and to the situation in Darfur. In this way students would get regular updates and could read the most relevant content without getting lost in a quagmire of information.

Parry's practical suggestion would be a great way to teach students how to identify the related online resources, to subscribe to their RSS feeds, and to evaluate the selected articles for relevance to their research. In this way, I can see how RSS could be useful for the blogging classroom, and the non-blogging classroom as well!


andreea pele said...

dear mary,
thanks for the article and the comment. your post and mr parry's article are right on the dot. i've felt the "pressure" myself while writing my blog (what to write? how to write?) knowing that my reflections were going to be read by other people. made me a bit more self-conscious (especially when i realised that unbeknownst to me some of my colleagues had actually read what i had written. immediatelly i tried to remember if i had mentioned them and in what light ;)
so, yes, the blog - torn between private and public!

all the best.
andreea pele

andreea pele said...

hi, it's still me, andreea. just letting you know of my last minute blog address change. it's no longer that link above, but this one
hope it's not confusing.


Mary H said...

Hi Andreea,
Thanks for stopping by to continue our discussion on RSS. Knowing our posts will be read by not only our colleagues, but also by other readers around the web does cause us to pause and think. I'll visit your blog again soon!