Thursday, September 15, 2011

Blogs and RSS Feeds

This week in the technology class, we are continuing to explore blogs and adding on use of RSS feeds. I've been blogging for quite a few years and back in 2009 I began using RSS feeds to keep up on my educational technology reading. I consider both tools to be useful on a professional and personal level.

The instructor asked us to respond to several questions relating to our reading this week, which were Chapter 4 in Audiovisual Methods in Teaching (3rd) (Dale, 1969), and Falling Asleep at Your Keyboard: The Case for Computer Imagination (Siegel, 2003), and on the use of the blog and RSS feeds. The questions and my responses are noted below:

  • Question: What are your early impressions of using a blog and what was your experience using an RSS Reader this week? Any surprises, pleasant or otherwise?

    Response: I've always enjoyed blogging, as I enjoy writing. I started a blog back in 2005 or 2006 called, A Farmer's Daughter. Although I started it using Blogger, I ended up moving it to a domain I had purchased called the same. Through the blog I shared my thoughts and feelings about life and other things that caught my interest. In 2007, after experiencing some significant changes in my life, I started a new blog on Blogger called, Precious and Honored. The new blog, again, was about my thoughts and feelings about life, but it was more focused on my spiritual life and still is today. In 2009 I started this blog as part of my professional profile and a desire to share my thoughts about online learning and technology. I've not been real good about updating this in the past three months, as I've struggled with my professional identity, due to being unemployed, but I hope this class will help me to get motivated and back on track.

    As far as RSS feeds, I've been using Google Reader regularly since 2009. Early on in my instructional design experience, I came across a video, Networked Student done in a CommonCraft video style, which inspired me to use Google Reader since I already had an account with Google and use many of their tools. Of course, to learn more about using RSS feeds, I watched the CommonCraft video, RSS in Plain English. Later on, I began using iGoogle with several different gadgets to organize my social media sites and personal learning network (PLN). iGoogle is now the place where I start my day by checking email (all of my email links are in a bookmark folder called Emails), catch up on the reading and blogs I follow, check Facebook notifications and messages, and Twitter updates and direct messages or mentions. I created a short video showing how I use iGoogle with various gadgets. I apologize ahead of time for my voice, as I have a head cold and my voice is not real clear. Hopefully, you will still be able to understand me though. Here's a link to the video: Using Google Reader and other Gadgets in iGoogle.

    So, I would say there weren't any surprises this week or last, due to the fact that I've been using these tools for some time and enjoy them.
  • Question: Which part of Dale's Cone do you think each tool (Blog, RSS) lends itself best to and why?

    Response: Blogs are really flexible in what you can add to them, so I believe blogs utilize several parts of the cone, such as exhibits, educational television, motion pictures, recordings, still pictures, and of course visual and verbal symbols. RSS is somewhat related to blogs in that is collects the feeds of various blogs and Websites and the blogs and Websites will oftentimes have videos, podcasts, slide shows and other such visual/audio artifacts, along with visual and verbal symbols. The RSS feed itself, is text only, verbal symbols, but if the heading or tag line interest you, it is easy to access the actual Website or blog, which then includes other parts of the cone.
  • Question: Considering Siegel's concept of "computer imagination," what do you think would be at least one "imaginative" educational use of each tool (blog, RSS) that takes advantage of each tool's inherent strengths? That is, what do you think you and/or your students could use these tools for that they might not be able to do with other more simple or low-tech tools? Or, as Postman might ask, what is a problem to which each of these tools is an answer?

    Response: Blogs can be used for many different things. I've seen it used for personal reflection and classroom interaction through comments, but I've also seen it used for a specific classroom project where the students are working together and not only reflecting on the experience through blog postings, but also embedding videos and photos showing the results of their working together or information found through their research. Sharing all of the information on the blog, allows for sharing of links, videos, photos, Web pages, articles and information, along with their personal thoughts and ideas among themselves, with their teacher, and with their parents. A blog provides a place to collaborate and share all at the same time. This type of community sharing and collaboration is not possible through old-school, non-Web-based methods. This takes it to the next level. This makes it "imaginative." Right along with the use of a blog for a classroom project or personal reflection, RSS feeds also bring about the "imaginative," by allowing teachers, students, and parents to stay up-to-date on what the student(s) are learning, the progress of the project, etc. All they need to do is subscribe to the RSS feed. This type of sharing, once again, would not be possible with a low-tech, non-computer/Web-based method.

    So, in answering a "Postman"-like question, "What is a problem to which each of these tools is an answer"? I would have to say the blog solves the problem of trying to collaborate in one location where all can view the work the students are doing, everyone can provide input into the same location, and the end result is visible and accessible to all. The RSS feeds solves the problem of trying to let everyone know there has been an update in the project or additional work added. Instead of having to email everyone or make an announcement of some sort, using an RSS feed provides an easy way for all parties to be notified of an update and provides a quick way for all to access the update.

Dale, E. (1946, 1954, 1969). Audio-visual methods in teaching. New York: Dryden.

Siegel, M. A. (2003). Falling asleep at your keyboard: The case for computer imagination. Training Today, The Magazine of the American Society for Training and Development, March/April, pp. 13-15.

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