RSS – Bringing information to you

This is the presentation I prepared for the second session of the Students 2.0 Learning Web 2.0 series. Not a huge number of people were in the room, but hopefully there will be teachers and students out there who will find this presentation useful in their classrooms. This is the first time I’ve uploaded a presentation to Slideshare. Usually I create presentations using SlideRocket, but Elluminate likes the PowerPoint format so that is what I used this time. Doing it this way means I can upload them to Slideshare and can regularly check in to see if they have been viewed or if anyone has left a comment.

I’ve uploaded this presentation to the Learning U wiki I’ve created to support this series. On the RSS page there are other great presentations from Slideshare and YouTube to help people gain an understanding of what RSS is and what kinds of options are out there for receiving RSS feeds.

Hopefully people will find this a useful resource. It took a fair bit of time to put together, so I hope it sees sunlight somewhere!

Death of RSS?

I’ve heard mentioned in a few forums recently about the ‘Death of RSS’. I’ve been thinking about it a bit recently myself. For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, I’m referring to people no longer having time to get to the blogs and sites they subscribe to via their RSS readers. I use Google Reader for blog subscriptions but I have to admit, it’s become a long time between visits.   

Why is it so?

Simple.   Twitter.

That cool little 140 character stream of consciousness feed from the people I follow has become my most vital source of information. It is here where I discover blog posts as people filter and lead me to them, it is here where I get to know the latest and greatest next big thing, and it’s here where I can develop connections with some truly great minds who help me shape my thinking.

But this weekend was different. I laid off the twitter pursuit of new knowledge to invest some time in my Google Reader. And I’m glad I did. I read blog posts, I listened to the elongated thoughts of the people in my network and I benefited from the experience. I discovered links that hadn’t filtered through twitter. Maybe they had, but not when I was present.  Let’s face it, you can’t be there 24/7, and if you are someone who trawls back to see everything that happened while you were away, then I’m thinking it’s time to reevaluate things big time!

I still maintain that RSS is the best way to introduce people to understanding why you would want to change your practice and rethink what it means to be a teacher and a learner at this time. I think people need to read the deeper thinking of educators who are trying to harness new ways of doing things. Twitter is very fast, particularly if you follow a lot of people. It is difficult to understand its relevance when you first begin using it and it can turn people off who don’t have a good understanding of building a network.

RSS helps you build the network. Reading blogs helps you figure out who the thinkers are and they in turn lead you to the thinkers they admire. Once you’ve got a bit of a handle on the reasoning behind establishing your PLN (Personal Learning Network), you can then start following these people through twitter and build a network there.

Anyway, that’s my take on things. RSS may have lost some of its relevance with the growth of twitter, but I don’t think it’s dead. This weekend confirmed for me the need to reconnect with the deeper thinking of my network through people’s posts. Judy O’Connell linked to The Future of Learning Institutions in a Digital Age, written by Cathy N. Davidson and David Theo Goldberg, with the help of Zoe Marie Jones.  It’s a paper that has occupied my thinking for much of this weekend. Read it, courtesy of my Google Reader!!


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The future of libraries, continued….

I’m finding it harder and harder to get to my RSS feeds in my Google Reader. I’ve no doubt this is in large part due to Twitter consumption. The temptation is always there to just check in to see what’s going on and before you know it you’re off exploring 8, 9, 10 links to new stuff that’s just downright interesting. Of course, as you’re exploring those, the hypertext environment that feeds off these links takes you other places and before you know it, two hours have elapsed!   

Well, I’m glad I found some time because I stumbled on a link to a blog post by Adam Corson-Finnerty, a Library Administrator from Pennsylvania. He was referring to Academic libraries, but I think his message has meaning for school librarians too. It’s time we shifted our mindset if we are going to remain at all relevant in years to come. Read what he has to say;

              Get out of Real Estate

Close as many libraries as you can.

Get out of the Study Hall business.

Your remaining facilities should be recast as “learning labs” or “learning environments.”

Downsize or eliminate your high-density-storage facilities.

Get in to or get out of the Book Storage Business.

Convert your storage facility into a regional storage facility that is self-funding, or

Pay another institution to store any books that you absolutely have to own, and

Pay this institution to loan you books as you need them from their combined holdings, or

Have this institution scan any book that you need and produce your own POD copy, and give it to the patron to keep (you really don’t want it back).

Get out of the book-buying business—only buy books when they are requested.

Keep only what is heavily used

Use “scan on demand” ILL services wherever possible

Use print on demand

Use in-house or nearby print-on-demand service for quick production.

Re-deploy your people

Get your people out of supervising the study hall, standing-behind-a-service-desk, giving directions to the nearest bathroom.

Retrain Librarians as “Informationists” or “Informaticians” or whatever new term breaks them out of the old mold. Your new librarians will be full members of academic research teams, or will “team” with individual scholars, including undergraduates. Many on your staff will have to become data curators, if not database creators.

Focus on the delivery of digital resources, services and tools

Continue and strengthen your role as Information Broker for the entire University

Emphasize training patrons in information-finding skills.

Emphasize digital self-help.

Emphasize collaborative tool-development with faculty

Emphasize collaborative resource-building, and resource-sharing with other Research Libraries

Emphasize physical and digital preservation of assets.

Lots of what he says here rings true for me. What about you? I’m sure there is still much to be said about the future of libraries. How we respond to prompts like these is the truly difficult and confronting challenge facing us, but face them we must if we want to remain relevant.

Adam provided a link to No Brief Candle: Reconceiving Research Libraries for the 21st Century. You can download the PDF at that link.


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Our flat world surprises mediasauce!

Had an interesting experience today.  The Elibrarian (a fantastic support – it’s wonderful having someone on staff who operates on the same page and can implement many of the ideas we talk about) sent me a link to a page that had featured on Stephen’s Lighthouse – Stephen Abram’s blog. We both subscribe to this site via our Google readers and love the fact that he shares so much of what he does. I really appreciate the fact that he posts many of his slides from presentations he gives – they are informative even if no audio accompanies them. Anyways, back to the story. The link was to a video called ‘Are you relevant?’, produced by Mediasauce for the Association of Fraternity Advisors in America. It’s pretty cool – a woman is talking to you and posing questions about how ‘young people’ communicate and how the ‘older generation’ uses communication devices like telephone books that are passe to people of her ilk. I really liked it and our Elibrarian put it on our Enewsletter for our staff to look at.

At the bottom of the page was a box asking ‘Like what you see?’ and offering more information if you clicked their link. It took me to an email window so I shot off an email to Scott Henderson from Mediasauce telling him I liked the video and would he mind if I wrote a post about it. What was interesting was his reply;

Thanks for the nice words about our site (our main site or the Are You Relevant? site).  We’re glad to let you write about it.  It’ll cost you one thing, though.   

You have to help me trace how you got the link.  I’d like to write a post on our blog about how an Australian college got connected to a company in Indiana, USA.

So of course, I sent off a reply explaining the process as outlined above. What I find interesting is that Scott found it fascinating how we got onto his video. Isn’t this exactly what they are exalting in their video. Our means of communication is changing and we need to adapt to these changes. My Google reader provides me with RSS feeds that are probably my primary source of information these days and it’s breaking down barriers in terms of comminication. As I replied to Scott, keeping up is the name of the game these days (as your video suggests!) 


Explanation please – and keep it simple!

Lee Lefever at Commoncraft writes really interesting posts about the work he and his wife are doing in trying to make new ideas easy to understand. A recent post entitled, Discovering the RSS Explanation Problem is a great read and something I think we can all relate to. Lee talks about going to a conference where a participant asked ‘What is RSS?”The CEO’s answer was, “RSS is an XML-based content syndication format.” He describes having an ‘Aha’ moment which no doubt was the seeding ground for the highly useful ‘plain english’ videos he and Sachi create.

How many of us have had the experience of people in command of knowledge being unable (or unwilling, and that’s another story altogether!) to provide an easy to understand explanation. I think this is a major problem when it comes to technology adoption. Often those in the know are so familiar with how something works they don’t realise that many people have ‘blocks’ when it comes to learning about a new way of doing things and need simple explanations that they can apply to their own situations.  This post has made me think about my teaching and they way I explain concepts to students. I’ve come a long way from my early chalk and talk teaching days, and I’ve noticed in recent years how effective graphic organisers are for students and how my teaching has changed. Our students are such visual learners – I see it in my own kids – and our teaching needs to address this. At the moment I seem to be surrounded by talk of ‘essential questions’. Maybe we also need to address the concept of ‘essential explanations’ to help our students navigate this educational landscape.

Here’s Lee and Sachi’s RSS in Plain English, and you’ll see how they make ‘RSS is an XML-based content syndication format’ easy to understand. If anyone from my school happens to read this, I’m happy to walk you through the setup of a Google Reader, and I promise I’ll make it relevant to your needs and simple to understand!