RSS Relevance

I've previously talked a bit about using Google Reader as one of the required sources in both undergraduate and graduate courses, most notably, here. One of the most important components of using a feed reader—consistent thinking and exploration of course themes and ideas outside of instructional time—is simultaneously one of the most consistent and pressing challenges.

Some students take to RSS immediately, seeing the value not only for using a reader within the context of the course, but for using it to their own ends, tracking and following the things they care about. But many more, unfortunately, see it as something of a novelty, dipping into Reader infrequently, often only when prompted to do so.

One of our doctoral program's fabulous students, Steph Hedge, has been teaching a section of Introduction to Digital Literacies this semester. She emailed me the other day with some feedback about how she's integrated RSS in her course, and how she's gotten students engaged with their feed readers. Here are her thoughts on the matter (published with permission):


So I know you said ages ago that it was tricky to get students to keep up with the reader, and I think that I've found kind of a solution to that, if you're interested.

I had them come up with the sites/blogs that we would follow. I started with a basic bundle of ten sites as examples, and had them follow those ten for a week. Then each of them had to go out and find a site to follow and write me up a little report (20 points) on the site - 10 points for the content and why it was relevant to the class, and 10 points discussing the design. Then they gave a wee two minute presentation to the class talking about why their site was interesting, and I threw them all into a class bundle.

I wasn't sure how this was going to work, but my students really surprised me with the sites they found. Some were better than others, but they all found something unique - there were three different examples of teachers talking about using digital media in the classroom, for example, and four different social media sites, and this: The Big Picture, which I wasn't familiar with before and is just stunning. It's interesting to see how sites with similar themes have different takes on material, and the students have managed to find things that fit with their own interests.

They're all really invested in the reader because they put it together, and they managed to surprise me with some new sites. I thought it worked out rather well.

I just thought I would share - I still bring up things from the reader in class to make sure they're on top of it, but I think this worked better than random quizzes to get them paying attention.


Many thanks to Steph for these ideas. I believe I'll implement them in the fall!


bricoleur97 said...

Thanks for posting this, Brian. I'd like to try the collective RSS feed idea with my biz comm students this summer. That course always needs some spice added.

Brian J. McNely said...

@bricoleur97 I'm glad it was helpful! Using RSS is tricky, but when it works, it's really a tremendous value!

Michael Faris said...

Cool idea! Thanks for sharing Steph's experience!

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