Thursday, September 8, 2011

RSS the Secret Ingredient to a Successful Classroom Website

These days just about everyone has a website of some sort.  But in education things move fast and furious for 9 months.  This also means that information on our sites and blogs changes rapidly as well.  Students can have 6-9 teachers at any given time.  Parents could have multiple children (mine had 5!) meaning the number of teachers/sites to monitor could be 20 or more!  Teachers (at the secondary level) could have 150 students or more.  Trying to manage effective modes of communication for all parties involved can become a headache in a hurry.  It is for this reason that all teachers, parents, and students should understand a simple internet technology called:

RSS stands for, according to wikipedia, Really Simple Syndication.  Sometimes also referred to as a 'feed' RSS automatically syndicates and delivers new posts or information to all those who have subscribed.  In other words, if my blog or website has RSS, anyone who needs or finds my site content interesting can have all posts or changes automatically delivered whenever new content is available.  It's the equivalent of having the newspaper delivered to your front door, except this is free and the content is exactly what you have asked for.

Site Owners (teachers): The owner of the site should choose a site with RSS or create a page within the site that uses RSS.

  • Blogs - All blogs that I know of, have RSS built in.  No need to do anything.
  • Google Sites - Google Sites do not have RSS built in.  However, you can create, what Google calls, an "Announcements" page.  Announcement pages do have feeds built in to them.  (To subscribe to an Announcement page in Google Sites, open the announcements page and follow the images below:

Subscribers (students & parents): Each subscriber needs to create a way to have the RSS feeds delivered to them.

Programs that receive feeds are often called aggregators.  There are lots of programs that aggregate RSS feeds, but here are a couple of my favorites:

  • Web-Based aggregators
    • Google Reader - With Google Reader, once you have created a free account, you click on "Add Subscription" and paste the address of the webpage that has RSS.  You can even organize your subscriptions into folders (very handy for parents with multiple students).  And since it's in the cloud you can get your feeds on any internet connected computer/device.  (Click here for a cheat sheet).

  • Aggregator Apps
    • Flipboard (iPad) Flipboard will allow you to connect your Google reader account and pull all your reader feeds in directly (I recommend this way).  Flipboard can also search the web for any other website or blog and pull those feeds in directly.

Teachers - Do your part by making sure you have a way to allow students and parents to easily follow your website or blog by using sites with RSS feeds.

Students - Encourage your teachers to use sites/pages with RSS.  Use the resources in this blog post to help.  Then be sure to use RSS to follow your teacher's site and stay up on everything in your class.

ParentsEncourage your teachers to use sites/pages with RSS.  Use the resources in this blog post to help. Then sit down with your child and set up your feed reader programs together.

What the heck?  You could even follow this blog :)

Have questions, concerns or suggestions?  Please leave a comment below.