This Indispensable Digital Research Tool, We can Say, Without Lying, Saves Time

When technology evangelists espouse that their tool saves you time, that it’s a red flag warning / code talk for “I am lying”.

These days many people rely on social media and their own professional learning networks to provide them information of interest. And these do work well to some degree and are important to use for your information flow. But it’s not very efficient.

People will claim they can replace RSS Readers with social media streams like twitter. While we do get many key resources and news stories via social media, let’s dispute that claim:

  • Clutter, noise, distraction. What you get is interspersed with many things that are outside your interests, rants, yelling, silly gifs. That’s a lot of filtering.
  • You Miss It, You Lose it. Social media is focused at the head of the stream. While you sleep or actually do something productive away from social media, it all flows away. Yes, maybe your network can signal with repeating important things, but its spotty.
  • Duplication You have no means to quickly know what you have already looked at, and you see may the same story multiple times.
  • You Are Subject to Algorithms Especially on facebook, what you see is determined by the mysteries of an algorithm. Sure you choose sources by followers, but the means by which information is presented is determined by some outside automated entity.

This activity brings you an exception to the technology as time-saving lie; it’s old tool that many people have abandoned. I will wade carefully through the acronym jargon jungle, but we are talking about using an RSS Feed Reader to monitor the most recent news, blog posts, data from sources you choose to follow, not ones dished out by some company’s algorithm.

This approach comes into good use in connected learning approaches such as a course you teach where students are blogging– how will you keep track and read new posts from 20, 30, or more blogs? This need is similar to following the activity in the Ontario Extend community. We aggregate the newest posts to the front page of the Domains of Our Own site and also are able to provide listing of new posts by within cohorts (e.g. posts from the EastWestNorth cohorts). But this requires you to remember to go to the site, scan what’s new, remember what you have already seen, then jump to other sites where you might never return… it’s not very efficient.

An RSS Reader allows you do more effectively scan the newest items, in one place, from many different web sites, in an interface is similar to something we know well– our email inbox. We can easily glance at that screen and see new messages.

This Extend activity will help you get started using an RSS Reader to set up your own efficient means to follow Ontario Extend blogs. A follow-up activity will expand this into creating and sharing your own collections of feeds from sources you curate.

Are you ready to read scan many web sites more efficiently?

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