To finish off the decade, I was delighted to have the opportunity to take part in another TeachMeet and the last one of the year to boot. A twist on the established format, TeachMeet Mobile was the brainchild of David Noble and John Johnston and required educators to share their thoughts and experiences of the noughties using the free phonecasting tool iPadio. Speakers could choose to either phlog their presentations live during their specified slot or submit a pre-recorded talk to be included towards the end of the event.
Giving an audio only talk was an interesting challenge and required careful planning and preparation. To minimise woffle and to try and get the most out of my 8 minute slot I decided to write a script which I could then read out on air and adapt spontaneously if need be. It was quite exhilarating to be able to one listen in live, waiting for your turn, two to know that any repetition, hesitation or deviance would still be recorded and three like Just a minute there really was no margin for error!
For my TeachMeet phlog, I chose to reflect on the power of really simple syndication (RSS) and explain some of the ways it can save time, increase productivity and enhance traditional methodology. Below is my script with embedded links. I hope you find it useful and it gives you some ideas on how you can incorporate RSS feeds into your practice. Happy New Year!
Discovering the Power of RSS for 21st century educators
Hi guys, my name is Joe Dale. I’m a CILT language Teaching Adviser and I’m also a Links into Languages trainer. I’ve recently left the classroom after 13 years of teaching experience of which 10, I was in the same school on the Isle of Wight. My talk is called Discovering the Power of RSS for 21st century educators and I’ve written a script which I will be reading from now and add bits and bobs as they come along the way. So hopefully they’ll make some sense.
OK. So, I’ve always believed that ICT should not be used for the sake of it, but only when it enhances traditional methodology. One of the highlights of the noughties for me was the discovery of RSS and how it can be used in so many ways to nurture one’s personal learning network. For those people who don’t know what RSS stands for, it’s Really Simple Syndication which is basically a delivery mechanism for subscribing to frequently updated content on Web 2.0 tools such as blogs, podcasts and wikis etc.
In simpler terms this means that instead of remembering to visit your favourite websites to find out the latest news, the information can come to you and be read all in the same place through an RSS reader. This seems to save a lot of time and improve productivity as a result.
Right, but RSS can do so much more than just that. In the next few minutes, I plan to share with you some of the gems I have discovered by reading my feeds in the last few years and I encourage you to try some of the ideas out for yourself.
OK, so the first idea is a site called Podcast Pickle and if you’ve got your own podcast you can create a player which you can then put on your blog. So basically you take the audio podcast RSS feed which you could get from say a website like Podomatic.com which gives you 500MB of space for free and you can just upload your podcasts on to there. That will then generate the embed code that you need to post the player on your website. So essentially this will allow others to listen to all of your episodes in the same place on your blog rather than having to subscribe to the information. They can just go to your blog and press play on the individual episode and every time you update a new episode it will appear on the blog. That’s the great thing about RSS, it’s dynamic.
OK, another idea I’ve come across with RSS is Feedburner and in particular Feedburner chicklets. Now Feedburner chicklets are the little bits of code that you put on your blog which then tell other people how many people are reading or have subscribed to the RSS feed that you’ve created. So that’s really cool from the point of view that, you know, how many people are essentially are reading your blog from the point of view of people who are subscribing. You don’t actually know how many people are just going to the website because they’ve just found it using a search engine or what have you, but you can actually quantify how many people have subscribed.
Now when I say subscribed, that doesn’t cost any money at all. Sometimes when I talk about this sort of thing at conferences etc people get the impression that you have to pay. Well, it’s absolutely free and I think in the present sort of climate, of certainly in England of people finding it more and more difficult to get out of school because of the Rarely Cover issue, I think that RSS and taking control of your own CPD, your own continuing professional development is really important.
So I’d definitely suggest that you have a look at Feedburner to create your own chicklet. Another thing about Feedburner is if you’ve created let’s say your RSS feed through a website like Podomatic then Feedburrner will allow you to, if you like, create another version which means that if you then change the host feed that you have, the original feed you’ve set up and create another feed, but use the same Feedburner feed, then your content will not be changed which is a fantastic tip I found out from a great podcast called Podcasters’ Emporium which is two guys from Australia talking about podcasting and the particular episode on that is episode 17 called Feeding your audience which has great information not just about Feedburner, but RSS feeds in general.
OK, another tip I would give about RSS feeds is in relation to YouTube. Searching for content on YouTube can be very time-consuming. However, it is possible to create an RSS feed to display any recent clip which has been tagged with a certain keyword. So for example, I used to be a languages teacher so I might be interested in for example in, I don’t know KS3 topics, sort of let’s say the family and by putting in "famille", the French word for family into the RSS feed that I create, it would mean that anyone who has tagged a clip with the word "famille" will then appear in my Google Reader which is a really great way of finding content I think.
In addition, you can subscribe to someone’s YouTube channel by creating your own RSS feed which in YouTube itself is not actually possible. You can subscribe to somebody’s YouTube channel, but you can’t generate an RSS feed which will then go into Google Reader. At the end of this presentation, I’ll give my blog address which has posts all about the topics I’m talking about now.
Another way of using RSS for researching for information is using Google Alerts which is fantastic for finding about topics of interest or individuals who are writing interesting blog posts etc and by going to Google Alerts and setting up an account you can either choose to subscribe via RSS or via email and if you have a Google Reader account already you’ll automatically send that feed to Google Reader. So it makes it easier to find useful links online for topics you’re interested in and it’s a fantastic way of researching for up to date information which comes to you instead of you having to go to it, as it were to find it which saves a lot of time.
RSS feeds are also a great way to keep in touch with the core group of people that you follow on Twitter for example, in particular Twitter. Twitter is a great way of creating your own personal learning network. The disadvantage in a way is if you are following, you know, 1500 people let’s say, there’s no way that you can read every single tweet that they make, every single message that they send.
Therefore if you want to follow like a core group, what you can do is go to the Twitter Search website, put in the username for the person you want to follow or track and then create an RSS feed for that username. Put that into Google Reader and as a result, you can see anything that they send as long as their tweets are not protected and also anyone who replies to them. So that’s really good. It’s also a great way of, you know, meeting like-minded colleagues as well.
OK, finally, I discovered a few days ago I could create an RSS feed for my friends’ updates on Facebook which has been possible in the past, but Facebook tend to change their security settings from time to time which makes it not possible, but anyway it is possible at the moment. So hopefully that will continue for a while and it means obviously you don’t have to login into the site. You can just find out what your friends are up to on Facebook by having the RSS feed straight into Google Reader or straight into your RSS reader. So that’s really cool.
So I think to sort of finish off with, the challenge now is to spread the news about the power of RSS and to show how effective it can be for enhancing learning in the 21st century.
I hope you’ve found this whistle stop tour interesting and for further info on the ideas I’ve mentioned. Check out my blog at www.joedale.typepad.com. Cheers.
Here are the same links tagged with tmm09 on my del.icio.us account:
Other TeachMeet Mobile phloggers included
- David Noble - Introduction to TeachMeet Mobile
- John Johnston - looking back at class podcasting & fwd to next 10 years
- Drew Buddie - This is a Mouse. (A short critique of just how far the use of ICT in schools has come in TEN YEARS)
- Nick Hood - This is a pencil. (Subjective reflection on just how far basic education has come in thirty years)
- Sharon Tonner - It's all in the hand! Connective, Collaborative and Creative learning.
- Krysia Smyth - 10 years: My journey from sitting at the back to standing at the front of the class
- A.G.Pate - Empowering Learning: Reviewing how the internet has changed how we learn and looking to what the future may hold.
- Julian Wood - Curriculum Innovation in my Primary School
- Ian Stuart - Move from Isolation
As David explains in his introduction all recordings will also appear (permission permitting) on the EDUtalk website set up by himself and John around the time of the Scottish Learning Festival 2009 as a way of pooling audio feedback from educators reflecting on their own and others' practice.
A great experiment I feel and an interesting exploration in the use of audio as a medium for sharing ideas. Well done David and John for your inspiration and I am sure the EDUtalk365 project will be a reSOUNDING success in 2010!
Please note an abridged version of this post also appears on José Picardo's blog Box of Tricks as part of the series Technology in Modern Foreign Languages and also as part of the EDUtalk365 project here.