Thursday, April 21, 2011

Using a Feed Reader

There is a vast array of fantastic resources available for teachers online. So many great people are posting things like professional development ideas, teaching resources, or even full lesson plans (ahem). It's mind-boggling to think of the information available to teachers these days.

But how are teachers supposed to keep up-to-date on all of these fabulous things? There's teaching, marking, planning, meetings, conferences, parents, and students to keep track of on a daily basis. Spare time? Not really. Spare time to browse the web and research the latest developments in education research? Really unlikely.

RSS Icon
So why not have the information come to you? Yes, with the wonders of Web 2.0, now you can have content delivered straight to your browser, desktop, smartphone, or email. Many great websites have an RSS icon (Really Simple Syndication). Click on it (there's an example on the right), and you'll probably end up at a website with a stream of text, only some of which is legible. Don't panic! This is called an RSS Feed. Just copy the URL (you know, the part that starts with the whole http:// business) from the address bar of your browser.

Now open your favourite RSS Feed reader. I personally like Google Reader (I set it as my home page, and always keep it open in a tab on my browser). There is an incredible variety of feed readers out there, for many different platforms. Just do a quick web search for "feed reader" and whatever platform you're interested in (e.g. iPhone "feed reader" or windows 7 desktop "feed reader"), and you'll probably find several options.

Now that you've set up your reader, keep your eyes open for the RSS icon. Each time you find it on a website you like, you can click on it, and subscribe to the website's RSS feed. It's similar to a magazine subscription: when there is new content, it will be delivered to you. You don't need to go looking any more! Have a favourite resource that you're always checking? Click "subscribe" and you'll always be up-to-date on the latest developments.

If you're still not certain, check out this Common Craft video explanation. It's fast, simple, and very well explained (Common Craft does a great job explaining many different things in their simple format).


Common Craft video used with permission.

P.S. Here's a list of feeds I subscribe to (in no particular order): 

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