RSS feeds and tags are the key components of the Read-Write Web that allow content to be easily categorized by everyone, then searched and accessed in new and profoundly different ways.

RSS Feeds - What pulls content to our learning space

RSS, which stands for Really Simple Syndication or Rich Site Summary, is one of the driving forces that is shaping the new Read/Write Web. RSS allows users to subscribe to information. No longer does a person need to go find information, and continually revisit certain sites to find updated information. Through a tool called an aggregator, one can subscribe to the content being published. Then, when new information is posted,external image 263038507_c07101ae40_m.jpg that information is instantly accessible to the user, using the aggregator. A good way to think of this of how one gets his/her newspaper. A person can read new editions every morning either by just having them delivered at home through a subscription (RSS), or can physically travel to a newstand to purchase new editions (going to static web pages).
Photo Credit - NYTimes by 46137 on Flickr

There are many fun ways to learn about RSS. Watch RSS in Plain English to get a general overview of RSS and how it works. Additionally, two great multimedia introductions to RSS, published for the K-12 Online Conference., include What is RSS and How Do I Use It? by Jeff Utecht, and a 4 part series webcast by James Gates and Kurt Paccio. (The presentations might take a little while to load.) These presentations clarify the use of Bloglines (an online aggregator), Netvibes and Pageflakes (online start pages that use RSS), Social Bookmarking and Tagging, and a summary of RSS and Tagging. These are excellent resources to learn more about how these technologies work.

Will Richarson recently posted a compelling example of how to use RSS in the classroom in his thoughtful Pageflakes example of the crisis in Darfur. Pageflakes, about which you will learn by watching the presentations from the paragraph above, is a tool for pulling RSS feeds from many different sources into one place. Read how Will pulled al the feeds together in his blog post entitled, "Using Pageflakes as a Student Portal". I used this page to learn about the crisis in Darfur, about which I knew very little. What makes this page about Darfur relevant and real is that it changes everyday, as new information is posted. I was able to learn about what the news agencies have to say here and also in Sudan, but also what conversation is going on about Darfur, with pictures and video. Because of this learning, I noticed that the iTunes Music Store had a free download from the NBC special, Crisis in Durfur with Ann Curry. The only thing I would change in Will's Pageflakes presentation would be to include the RSS feed to Google Video's coverage of Darfur, because many districts allow Google Video, but block YouTube.

A free, online aggregator tool for blogs for pulling content is Bloglines (part of the tutorial above). You can easily set up an account in minutes. Feel free to browse my public Bloglines account to find content that might interest you.

Tags

Picture_1.pngTags are another important component of Web 2.0 technology. Tags are keywords, made up and defined by anyone using those keywords or tags. Tags can be applied to blogs, websites, photos, or music/podcasts on the internet. People can use tags to define objects and conversations. Tags are then searchable through services. Among the many popular seach services that use tags, there is Technorati for blogs, Flickr search for uploaded photos, iTune's Podcast directory for podcasts published to their directory, and even Hitchhikr for educatonal technology conferences around the world.
Photo is a screenshot of tags on Delicious (Tags I have used are in red.)

More Resources

For an in depth look at how RSS can transform the way to teach, visit the presentation by Quentin D'Souza at the K-12 Online Conference called, RSS for Educators. This presentation includes a two part webcast, as well as several documents, that explore some of the advanced ways to use RSS in education. In addition, Mr. D'Souza's Teaching Hacks Wiki contains a wealth of resources
Additionally, for more information about RSS feeds and how they can be used in an educational setting, Will Richardson's updated RSS Quickstart Guide for Educators is an excellent resource.