Friday, January 05, 2007

RSS Readers & Blogs

I'm chasing an idea... how can I use an RSS reader to keep track of my class blogs? And how can I teach my class to do the same? At first blush it seems simple... add the RSS feed from any blog and bingo I can track the work. Just ask folks to send their blog url one time and it's done...

However I've found that what seems simple to me can confuse (and frustrate) many of my online students. RSS frustrated me at first so I'm concerned that it will bug my students. Luckily the latest versions of I.E. and Firefox make it fairly painless to subscribe to feeds.

Then there are rss readers like bloglines and google reader... there are many, and each has it's own quirks. I've got a bloglines account so, I'll fiddle there a bit, but I'm drawn to the Google tool because I've set up a desktop office using their stuff. I'm hooked on keyword searching my gmail account and have been dumping content from all my addresses into gmail for months. I've got years of Eudora mail I need to upload to gmail as well.. another background task...

At the moment I've gone overboard on rss readers. I've got Flock, I.E. & Firefox reading feeds on two different machines. I've got bloglines and google reader working, but I'm finding I go to Flock just for feed reading. It's the simplest system of them all (IMHO). If Flock were as fast as Firefox... I'd be there. (I know, you can configure FireFox so that it has most of Flocks features, but it's more nerd work than I have time for.)

Like all simple ideas, untangling it all and getting test cases working is step one. I feel I need to know it to teach it. I wonder if I should just toss the idea to the class and let them hack out their own solutions. The concept appeals... sweet constructivism, but the reality is folks are paying big tuition and have a right to a guide... I always try to walk down the center... offer a guided path, and suggest folks forage around on their own too. (My version of differentiated instruction.)

Next, I'll have to answer how I can teach this idea online without hopelessly tangling the newbies or boring the veterans. My inclination is to find the simplest system, do a tutorial, and suggest a path. On the flip side, I'll endorse the idea that anyone can try to get the same task done with any tool that intrigues them.

Any of you that stumble here, please suggest the best tech for the task?

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