RSS: Transforming Education

Getting info from internet quoteAs anyone in education, or any profession for that matter,  knows, if you spend more than 10 minutes browsing the Internet you soon discover that there is more information out there than can possibly be absorbed.  In the words of Mitchell Kapor, “Getting information from the internet is like getting a drink from a fire hydrant.” Even if you try to narrow your query to say ‘educational technology’, the search results are overwhelming. This is where RSS feeds come in.RSS

RSS stands for Rich Site Summary, a format for delivering regularly changing web content. The purpose of RSS feeds are “to have web sites of your choice deliver their latest news directly to your monitor. So instead of having to visit 14 different places to get your weather, sports, favorite photos, latest gossip, or latest political debates, you just go to one screen and see it combined (“aggregated”) into a single window.”  For educators interested in the latest technology, this means being able to browse many sites quickly to locate the most relevant news.

RSS feeds can have many uses in the classroom.  Examples may be helping your students to keep up with current events, helping students evaluate sites to look for the most reliable information, or listen to literature and improve comprehension skills through podcasts.  Three ways to use RSS feeds could be most useful in the classroom would be to help promote global understanding, promote authentic learning, or introduce a daily bit of inspiration.

Cultural literacy aligns with current core state standards. Promoting global understanding is paramount in our ever-changing, always connected world.  Students are exposed to so much through social media and news sites, and yet they don’t always know how to filter this mass of information.  A teacher may choose to create a news feed that focuses on other cultures and lifestyles that differ from their students’.  This can help young people to develop understanding, promote empathy, and help them to realize that there is a world outside of their own.  Students can compare and contrast religion, types of government, and make historical connections. RSS feeds can provide a window into the world. Some examples of sites that could be added to a geography/world cultures feed would be National Geographic, TIME for Kids, or Exploring World Cultures for Kids.

Authentic learning is a constructivist approach that encourages students to explore real-world problems that are relevant to them.  When students see a connection to their world, they are motivated to investigate and reflect more deeply.  The teacher can direct students to live feeds such as zoo cams, weather centers, or news blogs and help them connect to sites that are meaningful and important to them.  Data collection becomes much more meaningful when students can apply it to real life. Some popular RSS feeds that teachers could add to the students readers are the Smithsonian’s National Zoo website. This site provides great zoo cams that will be sure to capture the children’s attention. Students can also get the latest news from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA).

A third usefulness of RSS feeds could be to provide daily inspiration to the classroom.  Beautiful photographs from a photo blog or a poem of the day can motivate students to begin their day with positive thinking.  Teachers can spark students’ interests, allowing them to journal, or even create their own blog, as a morning activity. A simple photograph with a thought provoking quote can promote discussion and collaboration among students. If a daily poetry prompt is what you are after, then A Poem a Day for Kids blog is the answer.  For inspirational daily photographs, National Geographic Photo of the Day is the place to go.
The uses in the classroom for RSS feeds are as numerous as the feeds themselves.  By tailoring their newsfeeds to their students’ interests and needs, teachers can create valuable tools for learning.  

Information avalanche rescue: RSS feeds in the classroom. (n.d.). Retrieved July 7, 2016, from http://eduscapes.com/sessions/rss/

What does “RSS” stand for? (n.d.). Retrieved July 7, 2016, from http://netforbeginners.about.com/od/rssandlivewebfeeds/f/rss.htm

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