Sunday, November 29, 2009
Blogs and Real Simple Syndication - A Journey into Finding the Way
Reflections on the process of learning about the tool:
It seems like all my blog posts about Web 2.0 tools start out the same way - relating to how I have heard little or nothing about the tool before I began this course. It’s true again! I had heard about blogs and blogging before but I can’t recall any specific blogs that I had read. I may have come across one in searching for something but it never actually dawned on me that it was a blog. It wouldn’t have been something that crossed my mind. I really wasn’t a web reader before. I basically used Google Search and looked at the most visited sites for any information I needed. I certainly never heard about RSS before. Where have I been? According to several blogs I have read lately, I am not alone. Newsome states that, “RSS and the associated feed readers remain vastly under-utilized by most adults,” (2009). This means that in general we are unorganized in our web reading. Now that I understand the benefits of blogs, blogging and RSS I will be a more efficient web consumer and producer. It wasn’t always this way.
At the beginning of this course I had to sign up for a RSS and follow certain blogs. My initial thoughts were: “What do I do? What is a blog? I have no idea what RSS is?” I felt like I was in way over my head. The thought of it gave me a headache. I was locked in that little dark space and nobody could help me get out. I had to figure it out on my own by investigation. First I read the chapter in Richardson’s book on RSS. It didn’t make a lot of sense to me but I was very glad for his step by step instructions on what to do. With his book in one hand I followed every detail in setting up a Google Reader account. It was actually quite easy to do! Then I didn’t know what to do with it. Thankfully we were given the names of several blogs to subscribe to. After watching this Google Reader video I understood a bit more on how to use Google Reader.Of course being negligent in not knowing any blogs to follow I had to search for some sites that would interest me. This took quite a while and I became frustrated with my lack of knowledge on good blogs to follow. It seemed to me that we were not starting very slowly as Richardson, (2009), suggested we do. “You may want to stop at about ten feeds so you don’t get overwhelmed before you get practiced at reading in your aggregator.” I was well over the ten mark and feeling inundated. I continued on as we were required to subscribe to others. I searched and used the ‘add a subscription’ button to add more sites to my RSS. Through all the trial and error I knew in the end I would figure it out and this would be a useful tool. Continued rereading of Richardson’s chapter on RSS made me understand that the aggregator, “checks the feeds you subscribe to, usually every hour, and it collects all the new content from those sites you are subscribed to.” Then at my leisure I can check Google Reader and find all the updates to these sites and read what I want. I finally understood the benefit of an RSS, not only would I be seeing information from blogs I would be able to use it for professional development while learning about good blog sites. I would be more organized and have up to date information on education and other topics of interest at my finger tips.
At first I tried to read the feeds that I received then as the course progressed I found it more difficult to keep up. I would sit down a couple of days a week to skim the posts and read the ones of interest. I would mark everything that I skimmed and was not interested in ‘as read’. I used some of the posts as information for my course reading and was able to link to other interesting sites through the ones I had subscribed to. By doing all of this I was also being exposed to various credible educational and technology bloggers. I could see how they set up their blogs and what kind of voice they created in their blog. I know that there are many other tools in Google Reader for me to experiment with and these will make my web reading even easier. I will continue to play with them. Some of the tools I still want to use include: the blogger dashboard, bookmarks in reader, sharing and the RSS search feeds. When I followed the trailfire for post number nine I found it easy to understand all the information as it seemed to review and clarify what I have previously learned. I have progressed immensely in understanding blogs and RSS. Both have changed the way I use the web, read and organize in the web and learn from the web. As Schwartz, (2007), says, “part of the magic of weblogs is the way they can be used to accomplish so many different things and cover so many diverse areas of life.” I now use blogs to enhance my professional development. I started off in complete darkness and now see the light of blogs and Real Simple Syndication.
Discussion of the tool in terms of my own personal learning:
In my initial blog post I commented on how my learning would progress. By reading blogs and using RSS I have discovered a new way to use the World Wide Web. It has opened doors for me and my family that I would not have imagined. I am now reading and following credible and reliable sources of information that I would never have thought to follow. I have begun to organize my online reading so that I am not overwhelmed and will actually be able to keep up with it. I know I still have many parts of Google Reader to implement but I have plans to do so after the work of this course settles down. I will also be adding to my followers list to help me build a network around the reading and hobbies I enjoy. It will be relaxing to sit and read updates that my aggregator has found for me while I was away from my computer. I will actually be able to read more and spend more time with my family. My husband will benefit from using Google Reader as well. He can organize all of his favorite sites and this will decrease his online searching time. As a result our family time will increase.
I will also be able to use Google Reader and blogs to help me in the next course I take. I will be able to use the search engine to find information on reading disabilities. In my reading I also found another helpful site http://technorati.com/ to find blogs to add to my Google Reader. Not only will I be able to follow blogs but I will be able to create a blog of interest to me. I can teach my children about blogs and how to blog. Think about how far ahead they will be in the world as I teach them to understand what blogging could do for them and how much they could learn from blogs. They could have their own RSS account and start to collect sites of interest and for school research projects. They can network with others from around the world on topics that interest them. I had to wait this long to understand the value of these tools. My children will be very fortunate to start at a young age. Using blogs and RSS are also other ways for me to connect with people pertaining to my hobbies and interests. RSS and blogs are tools I will be able to use both personally and professionally.
Discussion of the tool in terms of teaching and learning:
Blogs, blogging for professional development and using a Real Simple Syndication have endless possibilities for me in terms of teaching and learning. Over the last week or so I have been contemplating on starting a blog about early literacy when this course is done. I would be able to help others understand and learn about concepts related to early literacy. I would also learn more as I would be reading more and trying to find credible links of interest to embed into my blog. Using the Google Reader search will alert me to any new articles on early literacy. I would be able to use the comments I receive to further my own learning or to drive the next post in my blog. My own learning and understanding of early literacy would naturally increase. I would have to try to gain readership in my blog and that would force me to use various avenues we have already discussed such as Facebook and Twitter to get my blog out there. By creating my own blog and commenting on favorite blogs I will become part of a social network that will help me to be a better teacher. Although, I will not be using blogging in my Kindergarten classroom at this point I have been helping a few other teachers in our school to set up blogs. I shared Anne Davies’ article, the Joy of Blogging (2009) with our grade five teacher. I have helped her set up a novel study blog in the past. She likes concrete examples and this article was full of them. The project encouraged feedback from all over the world, learning new vocabulary and stimulating conversations, as well as improving reading and writing skills. I also gave her this link to a blogging rubric so that she has a basic idea of how to assess her students when blogging. http://www.masters.ab.ca/bdyck/Blog/ I really would like this teacher to start using blogging more in her classroom. I feel that with her teacher - administrative position she can influence others in the upper elementary and help to get Web 2.0 tools used more in our school. I see my role as leading her into using the tools and she in turn can prove successful implementation to our colleagues.
I had a Kindergarten Action Group meeting this past week and the morning was a technology sharing time. I showed the group how Google Reader works and some were signing up that day. This will help to build a network within our own school division and beyond. We will be able to share interesting posts with each other that may provide professional development for us. Not only can blogs be used as online journals for students, teachers and librarians they can be used in many other ways. Some suggestions from Schwartz (2007) include: “provide up-to-date information on local events, fulfilling (librarian’s) role as a news and information source for their community, provide library news (both local and national), advocating for the importance of library support, provide announcements of new library acquisitions and promoting the services that they work so hard to provide.” Teachers can use blogs for similar information for parents and students.
Using a RSS has many educational values including these ideas from Gardner (2008)
- Set up a search of the news for a favorite author or text
- Subscribe to favorite children’s and young adult book authors’ blogs
- Set up a homework blog with RSS feeds
- Get a new book list on favorite topics and authors from Amazon.com
- Students set up blogs for writing and subscribe to each others’ blogs to promote community
- Students can use news searches to have recent articles come to them on research topics and inquiry projects
- Subscribe to your teacher groups that you are a member of to receive information changes. The opportunities for educators and students to use blogs and RSS are vast. These tools will help me to network with others that have similar teaching positions and interests. We will be able to share sites we follow, and learn from each others comments. I will also be able to follow and learn from others who are experts in their field. Reading and contemplating their different perspectives will expand my thinking and broaden my horizons.
Using blogs and RSS in schools also has some drawbacks. These include safety, Acceptable Use Policy, and computer access. Getting educators to see the advantages to using these tools can also be a hindrance. On the positive side the use of blogs and RSS are free, easy to set up and use. As well, there are all the benefits that I have discussed throughout. These tools definitely have a place in an educator’s life.
Davis, A., & McGrail, E.. (March, 2009). The Joy of Blogging. Educational Leadership, 66(6), 74. Retrieved November 22, 2009, from ProQuest Education Journals.
Dyck, B. (2004). Voice of Experience. Retrieved November 27, 2009 from http://www.education-world.com/a_curr/voice/voice123.shtml
Gardner, T. (2008). RSS: Bringing What’s New to You. Retrieved November 20, 2009 from http://ncteinbox.blogspot.com/2008/06/rss-bringing-whats-new-to-you.html
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VSPZ2Uu_X3Y google reader video (embed into blog)
Newsome, K. (2009). Tech for Grownups: Why You Need Google Reader. Retrieved November 26, 2009, from http://www.newsome.org/2009/01/tech-for-grownups-why-you-need-google.shtml
Richardson, W., (2009). Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms. United States: Corwin.
Schwartz, G. (2007). Blogs for Libraries. Retrieved November 20, 2009, from http://www.webjunction.org/social-software/articles/content/430713