RSS – The Daily Me

The Daily Me

In the last 10 years there has been a 480.4% growth in internet usage world-wide and the trend continues (Internet World Stats, 2011). Information is available 24/7 as mobile technologies become cheaper and more accessible. Research from a poll of 7,200 bloggers in 2010 (Technorati) suggest that over a quarter blog on their mobile phones.  It is becoming increasingly difficult to wade through all the information available on the web. Our librarians and educators are battling to improve the Information Literacy of our learners. There are a growing number of organisations, projects and initiatives being developed to provide up-to-date guidance and strategies for learners. Some experts argue that information literacy is the ‘democratic right’ of every learner, and a central element of lifelong learning (JISC, 2011).Sabry and Barker (2009) also recognise that “It is important for students to learn how to learn, how to be an independent learner and how to communicate with others to find relevant information” (Sabry, K & Barker J., 2009, p185). I suggest RSS is a useful tool to enable learning in this Information Age.

The Daily Me is a term used by Will Richardson in his book Blogs, Wikis and Podcasts (2010, p.72) to describe one of the characteristics of RSS (Real Simple Syndication). This is because RSS filters out extraneous information and draws in threads and streams from the user’s chosen fields of interest. With the exponential growth of information on the web which is dynamic and consistently in flux the need to tap into what is immediately relevant, significant and useful is becoming of paramount importance. Information overload is a real threat for us as educators so it is essential that we give our learners strategies to support their information literacy. Richardson refers to RSS as “new killer app for educators” (Richardson, p.71) because it can help users streamline their search for information.

What is RSS?

No need to duplicate. I love Andy’s metaphor of the Virtual Paperboy which lucidly explains the concept of RSS

How far does RSS facilitate interactivity? Well I think this wholly depends on what the user does with it. I see RSS primarily as a tool in the already bulging toolbox of technological goodies to help us be more efficient and capable. The more we immerse ourselves in the connective web in which we stretch and reshape our knowledge based on collaboration with others (social constructivism) the more we may need filtering mechanisms to find the best of what is out there which is specific to our immediate needs. In Muirhead and Juwah’s (2004) exploration of the four categories of interactivity; student-student, student-teacher, student-content, student-interface the use of RSS can be manipulated to sit in either category. In the blogosphere at the moment our tutor has asked us to set up an RSS feed in Google Reader so that we receive up-to-date information from this main blog   (student-teacher). We are also collaborating with each by responding to the information we receive and posting comments on each other’s blog (student-student). We read the information within our aggregator (student-content) and manipulate the type of information we want by choosing to subscribe to relevant feeds (student-interface).

But I feel I am squeezing a square peg into a round hole!

The RSS is a mere conduit to enable further interactivity and as such is just a tool. It may correspond to Muirhead and Juwah’s definition of “hyperlinked interactivity” (2004, p.14) since it “provides the learner access to a wealth and diverse range of information linked to a knowledge base” and it can therefore be helpful in motivating the user to explore something further.

I have only just started to experiment with Google Reader which surprises me since I have usually dabbled with most of the commonly used Web 2.0 technologies. I do think it will it help with the information overload but I also need to explore it further. I also subscribe to nearly a dozen feeds which end up in my Inbox, the majority of which get left unread and lead to frustration. Social Networks have the advantage of aggregators like TweetDeck which I use to gather all feeds from Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. Thanks to Paul’s excellent reportfolio blog on RSS I am going to think more carefully about metadata and the use of tags.

Can we learn without RSS? Yes and no.

Yes, because many learners simply rely on the static web to find their information by accessing what they are already familiar with; online journals, eBooks, virtual learning environments, and websites. They also use Web 2.0 of course; Flickr, YouTube, social network sites and some blogs and wikis (Wikipedia being the often demonized object of many a tutor’s wrath because of its lack of academic rigour and reliability). Nevertheless, learners do “get by” and participate in their learning and complete their assessments without subscribing to different feeds or using aggregators. They may struggle with extrapolating all the information at their fingertips but with the overwhelming majority of “learning” and education being assessed traditionally through exams and written assignments learners can continue to learn as they always have done through online research and independent study.

No, because as scholars like Sabry and Barker (2009) suggest in their vision of “learning systems” in the future with an emphasis on dynamicity and interactivity, learners will need to develop skills in inventive and high order thinking and learn how to communicate more effectively. If their vision of a Dynamic Interactive Learning System model is to come to fruition based on emerging pedagogies from changes in our information society then RSS will no doubt be an essential tool.

Muirhead, B. & Juwah, C. (2004) Interactivity in computer-mediated college and university education: A recent review of the literature. Educational Technology and Society, 7 (1), p.12-20

Richardson, W. (2010) 3rd edition Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms

Sabry, K. & Barker, J. (2009) Dynamic Interactive Learning Systems, Innovations in Education and Teaching International, 46:2, p.185-197

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