Want to keep up with current news in your subject area? Try Google Reader (or other RSS readers) to get constant, up-to-date RSS feeds from various news sources, blogs and podcasts. As May 1st is RSS Day, now is the perfect time to start.
Before we begin, what is RSS? RSS stands for “Real Simple Syndication”. Basically, an RSS Feed is an address assigned to content that is updated frequently on the web (such as a blog post, podcast, newspaper article, etc). An RSS Aggregator seeks out content from these RSS feeds and pulls them into a handy reader. In short, it brings the web to you, instead of you going to individual addresses on a regular basis. Need more explanation? Check out the RSS Entry in Wikipedia. Or, simply setup a reader and learn by doing.
There are many different RSS readers (some are even integrated into browsers), but I suggest Google Reader for its ease of use. First, you will need to setup a Google account. Go to: http://reader.google.com. You will need to follow the instructions to setup an account.
Once you have Google Reader setup, you can add subscriptions by clicking on the ‘Add Subscriptions’ link. There, you can search for new content, and Google Reader will seek out content from these RSS feeds. Alternatively, you can add RSS feeds automatically from websites that have the orange RSS logo.
When reading your feeds, use the “J” key to scroll through the content, and “K” to go backwards. If you want to look at the information more closely, you can simply click on the title or link to the original content.
You can star noteworthy articles, and come back to them later. As some sites are blocked by my district, I will star interesting news feeds and then access them later at home. The more advanced user can do other things, like create folders, tag, read feeds offline, and share your feeds with your friends. Click on the Google Reader Thumbnail (right) to see what a standard display might look like.
Got more questions? Check out the Google Reader Help Center, and you will find many short articles to help you use Google Reader more effectively.
An RSS reader/aggregator can be an extremely useful tool for a science educator trying to stay abreast of current discoveries and news. This is extremely useful for teachers that want to stay informed for their own teaching, but you can also encourage your students to setup RSS readers to discuss current events.
But what about for other subject areas? RSS readers have obvious applications for history and political science teachers. Try searching for your local paper to see if it has an RSS feed for their top stories. If you are a foreign language teacher, you can get foreign news daily. But RSS readers can also connect you to blogs that might relate to your teaching. Entering the search string “teaching math” reveals a “forum for mathematics teaching for students from upper secondary/high school level through university”.
Go ahead and Read your Feeds! I find that Google Reader is my favorite newspaper; it is a collection of what I want to read, delivered to my desktop automatically. But be careful – if I don’t go through my feeds on a regular basis, I find that I can get thousands of posts behind!