WRITTEN BY: KATE PETTY -originally published JAN• 18•12
“Get your phones out and read your RSS feeder for 10 minutes!” This phrase has become quite popular in my classroom lately. The students have even begun asking for it at the beginning of class.
I instituted RSS time 2-3 times a week for about ten minutes at the beginning of class after reading Troy Hicks’s The Digital Writing Workshop. Hicks suggests using RSS time as an opportunity for students to find topics that will inspire their writing. While it’s true, they are definitely inspired and they love to talk and write about what they read, it’s easy to find many more uses for RSS time!
Standards: An overriding theme in The Framework for 21st Century Learning, ISTE.NETS, 2011 Horizon Report, and, yes, the Common Core Standards is to teach students how to access and organize information quickly and efficiently. Students have access to overwhelming amounts of information at their fingertips. It’s becoming our job to teach them how to find and use this information on their terms.
RSS Feeds provide an essential tool in managing and organizing this mountain of information.
Students can access a feed reader with most smart phones. I suggested students use Pulse because it was one that I was already familiar with. Pulse allows them to select various feeds from news sources and magazines. It also allows them access to any feed from readers such as Google Reader so they can bring in any site (including blogs) from the web. Every time students open Pulse it automatically updates the feeds with up-to-the-minute changes for their reading pleasure.
The process to institute RSS time took about twenty minutes total. I asked students to download Pulse on to their phones from the various app stores they use (it is a free app). Students who don’t have smart phones use the class set of iPods (purchased with EETT grant money). They quickly created accounts and then took about ten minutes browsing for the sites they wanted to use in their readers (Pulse provides a search function and a list of “packages” based on interests).
One idea Hicks gives (I’ll be trying it next week): Have students post drafts of essays and blogs on sites with an RSS feed and ask everyone to join. Students can read drafts of others and provide feedback in the comments section. I use PBWorks- students are subscribing to the feed for the site and their RSS readers will be updated every time someone or a group posts something new.
It works for teachers: you can read along with them or use it as a filler if you need ten minutes before getting started.