Sharing What I Find

Instructional Design and Technology in Education

Giving Thanks

In keeping with the tradition of giving thanks for the upcoming holiday, I’ve been thinking about what makes my work-life easier and how thankful I am for having such a tool to help me manage the tremendous amount of information that is out there. This tool would be my RSS feed aggregator! There are many of these types of tools available Google Reader, Netvibes, Newsgator, Blogbridge, and many more, but I’ve chosen to use Bloglines as the one place I can go and see what’s new in topics that are of interest to me.

My feed reader takes the RSS feeds that I subscribe to and keeps track of when something new is posted to that blog, wiki, discussion forum or website. Instead of having to visit each of these sites, I rely on Bloglines to keep track of that for me. I can go to one place on the web, browse through my list of subscriptions and make a choice on whether or not I want to see what’s new. I almost never have time to review all the new items in one sitting. I can quickly run through my list, select the ones that are most important at that time and read the headlines. There are certain subscriptions that I look at every day, sometimes more than once. But sometimes the number of new items grows until it looks even too large for me to look at; its too overwhelming. Then I simply clear them out and let the aggregator start over at 1. If I missed something I can always go back to the inital website and look for it. For example: I subscribed to several blogs that aggregate posts from other blogs on a similar topic. This syndicated blog might post twenty new items every day. If I miss one day of looking at the new posts then the number quickly adds up. Most often, out of the twenty posts there might be only one post that is actually meaningful to me. When the number grows too big I know I will never look at all of them so its just easier to clear it out. Its almost like all those boxes that I have in storage. There are things that have been there for about two years. Most likely I could just give the box away. I probably wouldn’t miss anything. And what a feeling of freedom that would be! (not too save a $$ savings!)

Also available is something called RSS-narrator, like TalkingNews which takes your text-only feeds and converts them to podcasts so you can listen to the articles on your ipod or other mp3 player. I haven’t tried this out but it seems like a pretty handy thing to have especially if you had a long commute to make each day.

For more information on RSS and Aggregators check out commoncraft.com for an easy to understand explantion on RSS.

List of Aggregators on Wikipedia

Comparision of Aggregators on Wikipedia

What’s your favorite digital tool that you give thanks for?

Author: Heidi Olson

Heidi enjoys working with content experts in developing eCampus courses to provide alternatives for students. Her other interests include faculty training in best practices for eCampus and researching eCampus tools to help fulfill learning outcomes. Having worked in the distance education arena for over 20 years, she has a wide range of experiences in supporting students and faculty as technology and pedagogy evolve.

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