RSS

A web feed, sometimes called news feed or a syndicated feed, is data that is used to collect frequently updated content. A popular web feed is RSS, which means Really Simple Syndication. (Atom is another web feed.) Web feeds, or RSS, works like this. Content distributors, like blogs, wikis, magazines, news sources, podcasts, etc. syndicate a web feed, thereby allowing users to subscribe to it. Web feeds that are of interest to the end user are collected in one spot, using an aggregator, sometimes called an RSS reader or feed reader. The reader can be web-based, mail based, desktop based, or mobile based. A popular aggregator is Google Reader, although there are many others. Aggregator typed in a search engine will reveal many choices of readers.

The user subscribes to a feed by entering into the reader the feed’s URI or by clicking a feed icon, (which is usually an orange box with sound waves) in a web browser. This action initiates the subscription process, the user need only follow the directions. After the user has subscribed to the feed, the RSS reader will check the user’s subscribed feeds regularly for new feeds and will download any updates. The reader also provides an interface in which the user can monitor and read the feeds.
The advantages to a RSS feeds are many. A RSS feed allows users subscribe to websites that the user has an interest, thereby avoiding the manual process of logging into each site and finding out if there is something of interest to read. The RSS feed allows more content from more sources to be read in a shorter period of time, thereby streamlining research and learning. According to the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), literacy in the 21st Century states that a literate student must be able to “manage, analyze, and synthesize multiple streams of simultaneous information.” (NCTE, 2008) RSS helps with this skill.

Another advantage of the RSS feed is that RSS is not sent via e-mail (unless sent to an e-mail aggregrator, of course.) This means that it is free of email problems such as spam, viruses, and phishing. Also should the user decide not to continue with the feed, the user simply unsubscribes to the feed and does not have the problems associated with trying to unsubscribe to e-mail lists. (Mason & Rennie, 2008).

The educational learning theory, connectivism, theorizes central learning is accomplished through ideas that are supported by social and personal networks and is interconnected through engagement in experiential tasks. Connectivism synthesizes salient features and elements of several educational, social and technological theories and concepts. Connectivism views the teacher as having the role of a mediator and learning is the process of creating connections between nodes to form a network. “A key idea is that learning starts with the connections that students make with one another, as opposed to with a fixed body of content. RSS, and more broadly, the concept of content syndication, have the potential to support complex, many-to-many connections in line with this philosophy.” (Lee, Miler, & Newnham, 2008, p. 316).

Possible uses of RSS include personal learning environments in which students manage their own learning. Instead of using learning management systems which are controlled by the institutions, students select content based on their needs. Rather than being packaged for them, content is created and distributed, remixed and reused by syndication or RSS feeds. This allows more student control whereas the learner aggregates a diverse range of content for their own learning and encourages the student to follow new trends and developments, a skill students will need in their professional lives. This key benefit fosters learning from sources other than the university, encouraging learning from a wider range of experts. (Lee et. al).

Other possible uses of RSS is for cooperative and social learning. RSS helps build social networks and communities. (Learners also may reduce the complexity of materials by using the aggregators to organize the content.) RSS affords students the technology to move and mix information, encouraging learners to view information from a new perspective, fostering critical thinking skills.

Reference
Lee, M. J. W., Miller, C. & Newnham, L. (2008) RSS and content syndication in higher education: Subscribing to a new model of teaching and learning. Educational Media International, 45(4). doi: 10.1080/09523980802573255

Mason, R. & Rennie, F. (2008). E-learning and Social networking handbook: Resources for higher education. New York: Routledge.

NCTE Position Statement (2008) 21st century curriculum and assessment framework.
Retrieved from: http://www.ncte.org/positions/statements/21stcentframework

Learning to use RSS Feeds

I have been using RSS feeds on a limited basis for a couple of years now. I forgot to even mention it in my thread but I have about two years worth of French words from “French Word of the Day.” And I am a big Apple fan so I keep up all things Apple. Plus, Higher Ed jobs is a feed I watch pretty closely.

Even though feeds weren’t very new to me, before this class I always sent the feed to my email or to Firefox. But now I also upload to Google reader. It depends on where I am physically as to which feed I read.

Anyway,I did subscribe to several more feeds to align more with instructional technology. If I find a feed is a waste of time, I just delete it. But most of the time, I find something here or there in the feed that justifies the full mailbox. I probably delete 90% of the articles, but the 10% is worth the trouble.

I especially liked this discussion because most of my classmates gave links to their feeds and some of them seem really neat. Some of the feeds I checked out already and other feeds I have on my list to try. Most feeds are light reading. If I don’t have a journal article handy, I read a feed before bed. Seems crazy. But it is much more fun to read the information if I am doing it without a grade.

Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge or TPACK

In my Computer Applications class we discussed TPACK or Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge. Our discussion centered on what would professional development for teachers look like if it was structured to align with the TPACK framework? It is a pretty simple theory that pedagogy has to align with content, technology and knowledge. I read the article and I was blown away. None of the other articles I’ve read talked about technology in the context of a blend with knowledge and content. However, I also had to agree with Denise Ward that a good teacher uses TPACK without really thinking about it…at least as well as she can within the confines of her school.

Again, since I’m not a teacher, I’m didn’t have much in specific examples. However, I loved this article so much that I called checked out the Michigan State web site and emailed Punya.

I thought the TPACK article was a pretty cool article. But it makes me wonder if I have a place in Instructional Technology? But surely every teacher can’t get a master’s degree in Instructional technology to integrate 21st century skills. Am I learning enough theory to be helpful?

This discussion aligned with a professional development project I was doing in another class. Although I think it is wise not to get wrapped around specific technologies, some technologies would be daunting without some expert help. So, although I agree in theory with the authors, I think someone would need to be around with some practical experience so that the teacher isn’t too overwhelmed.

I found this tip from Theresa Mackanos helpful, “We have a teacher at our high school that posts every one of his lessons via video / podcasts. He shows his examples. Actually, if his kids are absent for a day, they can actually go to their class on his blog site and see the lesson they missed. The kids who are motivated even go ahead as they can go into his history and view lessons from last year to see what the next lesson is.”

The only negative I see in a discussion of this kind is that it is specific to teachers, so answering the threads is a little difficult to fit in. However, fit in or no, I still get a lot out of the discussions.

Technolgoy Debate

I learned from the technology debate in my Computer Applications Class that teachers from this course are very passionate about technology in the classroom. Our debate was over an ambitious teacher, Kristen, who received a technology grant and now needed to get other teachers excited about using technology in the classroom. In this debate, you will choose a side and make arguments for and against the widespread implementation of technology in the classroom. Should the other teachers join Kristen in implementing widespread use of technology in their classroom?

I was on the con side. Normally I would appreciate being on the con side of technology but I felt that Kristen should have got the teachers on board before she applied for the grant. The sad thing is that most of those teachers who think it is a waste of their time won’t even hear what Kristen has to say.

Plenty of hot debating in this issue. I didn’t respond as much as I might have if I were a teacher in K-12. However I did read what everyone had to say. I did perceive that people were often uncomfortable with the side they were on and were apologetic for their hot disputes.

I don’t know how you could have improved this discussion other than let people choose sides. However, everyone in this class probably would have been “pro” and then there would not have been a debate.

I copied some articles. I’m weird. I love reading the journals.

More Research Concept Maps

According to Jonassen, D., Howland, J., & Marra, R., “Building models using different computer-based modeling tools is perhaps the most conceptually engaging classroom activity possible that has the greatest potential for engaging and encouraging conceptual change processes.” (2011, Kindle Location 4564). The assumption is that if the student can’t model it, they don’t know it. Modeling may be created using concept mapping, spreadsheets, and databases, among others. “When using computers as Mindtools to model phenomena, students are teaching the computer, rather than the computer teaching the student.” (Jonassen, et al., 2001, Kindle Location 4593) Students cannot use concept mapping without deep thinking about the content. In other words, the user has to think harder about the content than how to use the computer to render the content.

Concept Mapping  and other Mindtools (Jonassen, 2006) help students comprehend and remember what they are learning. Should the model be of systems and how they are integrated together, then it helps the student understand how the information is tied together. In addition, if the students compare their concept maps with other students they can see how others represent the same ideas, for deeper thinking.

Working together on concept maps are also useful because this gives the learners a reason to reflect on knowledge  in association with ideas presented by the others in the group.

A concept map is composed of nodes (or concepts and ideas) that are connected by links which are propositions or relationships. In software programs the nodes are represented by blocks and the links are represented by lines. According to Jonassen, et al., (2001) the ability to describe the links is the most important intellectual requirement and that concept mapping software without this ability is not useful. “The more exact and descriptive these links are, the better the map is.” (Jonassen, et al., 2001) For this reason, Jonassen, et al do not think that adding graphics, etc. is prudent. It’s easy to get carried away with the graphics and give less importance to the links.

Jonassen, David H.; Howland, Jane L.; Marra, Rose M. (2011). Meaningful learning with technology, 4th Edition. Allyn & Bacon. Kindle Edition.

Jonassen, David H. (2006). Modeling with technology: Mindtools for conceptual change. Columbus, OH: Merrill/Prentice-Hall.

It’s Lonely at the Bottom

In the Computer Applications in Education class we are supposed to do a project that other people review. My project has been up for 5 days and no one has reviewed it yet. At first I thought it was because the subject was boring (reviewing software and showing what you know in a certain software program with before and after), but the other person who picked that subject didn’t get a review either.  I made sure I reviewed her project the other day. I deliberately didn’t want to review her project because it was about Word and Excel, and I don’t know either of those programs, but she looked so lonely at the bottom. Plus I know what it is like to have a project no one is interested in but me. It’s not like no one saw my thread. There were eight other views besides mine. So that is eight people that moved on. It shouldn’t bother me, but it does. I worked so hard on it.

Technology Integration & 21st Century Skills

I learned from the technology discussion in my Computer Applications Class that teachers in K-12 have a hard time integrating technology in their classrooms. Surprising to me was that the many of the software programs and websites are not allowed in the schools, which make it difficult for teachers to be creative. The students in this class are predisposed to technology. But it makes it easier for me to understand why so many of my non-geek peers are so against it–they don’t know enough to even have an opinion–except because it isn’t allowed in the schools, it must not be safe. What everyone at the school seems to forget that these same children go home and work on computers and are often on the same programs that are prohibited at school.

I also learned that this class as many inspiring and creative teachers. I would be honored to have any of them teach my child. Their schools are lucky to have them. They understand the importance of technology yet understand that technology is just the tool.

My background is publishing so my keyboard is practically glued to my fingers. I thought I was technology savvy, but what this discussion also taught me was that I don’t know hardly anything. I never even heard of a clicker, or a smart board, or a webquest, etc.

I picked up an idea from Theresa Mackanos about making movie trailers instead of book reports! I think that is a wonderful idea.

Since I’m not actually a teacher, I often didn’t have something to say. Had I been at a party, I probably would have slipped out, but because it isn’t awkward to stand quietly by and listen, I learned a lot from my classmates.