This is one of those things I ‘ve been meaning to talk about for a while now and just haven’t found the time to write. Well, what better time than now. For those that don’t know what RSS means, check out this Wikipedia article. It will probably tell you more about RSS than you really want to know. My short definition is that RSS feeds are a way to receive updates posted to a Web site, usually a blog, podcast, etc. RSS feeds aren’t anything new, but many people aren’t using them. This could be due to a variety of reasons, but I think one of the biggest is that many people do not know now what to do with an RSS feed. Well the answer is simple, and requires only the use of an RSS reader.
How this works is that you “subscribe” to a blog, or other Web site that has an RSS feed, using an RSS reader. The RSS reader will then update automatically any feeds you have subscribed to. So, when you want to see updates from a Web site, all you need to do is open your RSS reader and see if there are any new posts. You may be asking yourself, “What’s the big deal? It doesn’t take that long to check these two, three, five, ten Web sites everyday.”
While that statement may be correct, time is relative to each person based on how much they value their time. If you are like most educators, time is a rare and precious commodity. For most, taking time to check multiple Web sites everyday to see if there are updates takes more time than you probably realize. RSS readers increase a person’s efficiency by bringing the updates from all your favorite Web sites to one location. Instead of checking five sites everyday, you can check just one and then move on with your day. The time you save using an RSS reader translates into time for other, perhaps more important tasks you need to complete.
I know from my own experiences that using an RSS reader has made me more productive. I have also had the chance to expand the number of blogs I follow and organize them in a way that lets me target the skill or area I want to devote my PLN time to on any given day. So for me, my RSS reader has not only helped make me more efficient with my time, but it has also expanded my knowledge base by allowing me to follow more blogs more easily.
If you want to get started using an RSS reader, it’s easy to do. All you need to do is look for the RSS icon usually accompanied with “Subscribe” or “Feeds” on your favorite Web sites. Most Web sites usually put this at the top of the page, in with the navigation links, or sometimes at the bottom of the page. If you don’t immediately see one, try search the home page of the Web site for Subscribe using the built-in search feature of your Web browser. For most, the quickest way to bring the find feature up is to push command-f or control-f on the keyboard. You could also find it under the edit menu on most computers/Web browsers.
Next you need to setup an RSS reader. There are a number of options, but I prefer Google Reader the most, but feel free to use one that meets your needs. Here’s a list of a number of RSS readers, both Web based and computer based (actually installed on your c0mputer rather than being stored on the Internet). Once you find the RSS feed, by clicking subscribe on a Web page, you can copy the RSS URL and paste it into the subscription section of your RSS reader. It is important you choose the RSS URL and not the Web page URL. The difference is that if you choose the Web page URL it won’t update in your RSS reader, where the RSS URL will update. For example, if you entered http://dmourlam.wordpress.com into your RSS reader, it would not update when new posts are published. However, if you entered http://feeds.feedburner.com/dmourlam, you would receive updates every time I published a new post.
You may also notice that many Web sites have buttons that will enter the RSS feed into your reader for you. This is the case for Technology Tips. If you click on Posts-Technology Tips under RSS on the homepage, you will be taken to another Web page that allows you to subscribe to this blog by just clicking on the name of your RSS Reader. So if you are using Netvibes as your RSS reader, then all you would need to do is click the Netvibes button on the subscribe page. Below is a video that takes you through this process.