RSS Feeds: Organizing Work and Life

Which Web 2.0 tool could I learn use that would help organize more effectively my work and my life?

When I considered this week’s topic, getting (and staying) organized in an electronic, Web 2.0 environment, I thought about how much I like to be well organized.

I love organizational tools. I love coloured file folders, customizable dividers, and stacking clear plastic boxes.  I love Microsoft Outlook because the calendar reminders function keeps me on time for all my meetings and the rules and folders for mail keep my correspondence arranged by topic and the colour coding for incoming mail meant the fuchsia messages from my principal got instant attention. I loved using Backflip, because I could access my bookmarks from any computer (now I’ve switched to I love my MSN homepage because on one page I’ve got email, important links, daily weather, news headlines, the comic strip For Better or Worse, and more.

But I know I can be much better organized using some of the Web 2.0 tools out there. My inquiry question for this week is this. Which Web 2.0 tool could I learn use that would help organize more effectively my work and my life?

As I began to research this, I knew that it would be tough to pick just one tool. I needed something with applications in several areas, and that would be useful not just as a teacher’s tool but as a personal tool. I thought about the amount of time I spend searching the Internet, and thought that perhaps I could find something that would make this more efficient and less time consuming. That would impact my personal AND professional life.

I skimmed through our text book again looking for ideas and was struck by the title of Chapter 5: “RSS: The New Killer Apps for Educators.” I had looked at this earlier, while setting up my Bloglines account at the beginning of the course. But now I saw all the different ways you can use RSS to get all kinds of content organized and brought to you. Richardson says, “RSS is a technology that will change your life if you let it” (p. 72). The most useful application for me personally that he suggested was the RSS feed for website searches using (p.80).

I decided to investigate using RSS applications as my Web 2.0 tool of choice.

Joanne’s Trailfire on RSS and Blog Aggregates provided some more excellent examples of the effective use of RSS applications. In the article NCTE Inbox Blog: RSS: Bringing What’s New to You I was struck by this succinct explanation.  “But what exactly does RSS do? In the simplest possible explanation, RSS gathers the new information from specific sites that interest you and brings this new information directly to you.” Then the author, Traci Gardner, provides some suggestions as to what RSS can do for you in addition to just keeping up with new blog postings.

Here are a couple of Gardner’s ideas:

1. Want to keep up with new results for a Google News search? Perform the search, then click on the RSS link (lower left of the page) to subscribe. When new results appear, you’ll see them in your aggregator.

2. At you can subscribe to RSS Feeds for Bestsellers, Hot New Releases, and Movers & Shakers.

In Terry Freedman’s book, Coming Of Age: An Introduction To The New World Wide Web, I found more good ideas about RSS in John Evans’ chapter “What Are RSS Feeds and Why Haven’t I Heard About It?(RSS Feeds from an Educator’s Perspective).”  Evans mentions the time-saving aspect of having selected content come to you, and he gives some educational applications too. For example, in social studies teachers and students can subscribe to feeds from around the world on a specific topic or event to compare content, bias, coverage, etc.  He suggests using RSS Compendium – RSS Feeds, which sorts feeds into categories such as Education, Film/Video, Government, etc.

I also read Quentin D’Souza’s Web 2.0 Ideas for Educators A Guide to RSS and More Version 2.0. He gives dozens of ideas for integrating RSS feeds into all kinds of projects and applications, including email, blogging, photo sharing, and video sharing. Need to be reminded about something? Go to ReminderFeed – Your RSS Reminder Service. Want to search while you are off line? Set up a search on MSN, and then subscribe to the RSS feed for it. Want to share a calendar with your family? Go to RSS Calendar, and you’ll get updates automatically in your aggregator! I have set up a calendar to share with my family to help us in planning our family reunion for next year.

It is clear to me that using RSS feeds more extensively will simplify my time online considerably. I’ve already seen how easy it is to keep up with new blog postings on Bloglines. I plan to set aside some time each day to learn how to use RSS more effectively, especially in doing Internet searches.

As a teacher librarian, how would I go about sharing this with my high school teachers? I would select a social studies topic dealing with a current issue, such as global warming, set up some feeds from around the world, and meet with one social studies teacher to share what I’ve collected. I would teach her how to set up a Bloglines account and appropriate feeds. Together we would plan a project where students would look at and use content from around the world using RSS aggregators. One we’ve done this with one class, we would collect feedback from the students, and modify the project.

I’m looking forward to my new learning curve.

School-wide Web 2.0?

Want to feel intimidated about Web 2.0? Be sure to read David Warlick’s article “A Day in the Life of Web 2.0.” Although it was written almost two years ago, it certainly presents a vision of a school-wide (and indeed system-wide) philosophy and effective use of technology that is light years away from my high school.

In the last chapter of his book, Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms, Will Richardson illustrates one teacher using all of the tools discussed in the previous chapters. “Epilogue: The Classroom of the Read/Write Web” shows an English teacher’s use of Web 2.0 tools to enhance teaching and learning. 

Warlick’s article goes further. In this vision every teacher in the school uses various 2.0 tools to facilitate teaching and learning, including blogs, wikis, podcasts, social bookmarking, and more. This technology helps infuse the school and the school system with a culture of sharing and collaboration that includes teachers, students, administrators, and parents. Even the superintendent of schools is in constant touch with what’s happening in his schools as a result of effective use of 2.0 technology.

While I do find Warlick’s vision intimidating, I am also inspired. My favorite part of the article is the description of the role of the teacher librarian, who, along with the school tech facilitator, subscribes to all the teachers’ weekly blog reports that summarize all that will be taught. The t-l and tech facilitator map all the curricula that are being taught in the school each week. They then research various resources and strategies to share with teachers and students.

I wonder if there is a school district where this vision has become a reality. I love the possibilities this vision suggests to me.

About This Blog

Working together

On the Isle of Arran, a crow finds a friendly sheep. I identify with the crow. I too am looking for those useful bits to keep me going.

In my case it’s useful bits of information about Web 2.0, ideas and strategies and applications that will make teaching and learning more effective, especially in high school.

My strength as a teacher librarian has always been collaboration, and to me that is the beauty of Web 2.0 apps — they make collaboration an intrinsic part of the process of learning. I’m looking forward to sharing what I learn with my favorite flock!

Because I love Scotland, and have hundreds of photos my husband and I have taken there, you’ll find bits of Scotland scattered through my posts. You’re welcome here, and I hope you’ll join me on my journey round the web.