Harnessing the Web with RSS Feeds

Presented By: Doug Walker, District Technology Coordinator, Hillsdale Public Schools, NJ.

What Will Be Covered
1. Introduction
2. What is an RSS Feed?
3. How can you subscribe to them?
4. How can you use and RSS Feed?
5. The steps to get started using them?
6. What is a feed aggregator and how do I use them?
7. How can I use RSS Feeds in the classroom?

Have you searched the web lately and come across any of these icons or phrases?

rss.gifexternal image insert_table.gifFeed.gif

They represent RSS Feeds. RSS stands for "Real Simple Syndication". It is a method developed that allows a user to subscribe to content for a particular site. This means that updated content is delivered to the subscriber. This technology allows for creators of conent to syndicate their content to subscribers.

No longer is it necessary to spend hours surfing the web to check for updates to your favorite websites, blogs, periodicals, news sites or professional journals. The days of having updated content sent to your already cluttered email inboxes are now a thing of the past. RSS feeds are not only an incredible time saver, they ensure that you stay on top of changes and available information for content areas that are important to you.

What exactly is an RSS feed?
  • Really Simple Syndication
  • XML code is used behind the scenes on a site to create a feed
  • Most commonly found on Blogs, News Sites, Periodicals, Journals, Discussion Boards, and now Teacher Websites.
RSS in Plain English - By, Common Craft.

How can you subscribe to RSS feeds?

To subscribe to a feed you must create an account with a feed aggregator. Some of the most common feed aggregators are

A feed aggregator acts as a central location for you to access your feeds. These aggretors can sometimes replace your internet start page. Examples of internet start pages that contain feeds are:


Google Reader and Bloglines are aggregators that allow for easy organization of a large quantity of feeds. Feeds can be organized by category and topic by placing them in folders. You can control the number of feeds per site to display.

How can I use them?

Example #1: You are a K-12 teacher who is interested in integrating technology into your class. There is a wealth of information available on this topic. You are having a hard time remembering the sites that you have found with information, discussions, and resources available. You don't have enough time each day to search these sites to see if there is updated content worth reading or exploring.

RSS Feeds solve this problem. By subscribing to content available on these sites you will receive updates daily, even hourly. You can then decide what updates are worth exploring. By Clicking on them, you will be taken directly to the updated content. By clicking on the name of the feed, you will be taken driectly to the site.

Example #2
You are very active in a variety of areas. Each day you like to stay on top of world and local news, Sports scores, weather forecasts, news regarding your favorite performers, concert updates, subject area blogs, professional journals, book reviews, exercise and diet blogs and info etc... Sound familiar? We are all interested in many of these types of content. Although it all can be found on the web, it is time consuming to check all of these sites daily. RSS feeds allow you to subscribe to content from all of these sites in a central location. You can check for updated content at this location and deside what you would like to review, when you would like to review it.

How can I get started?

  1. Create an Account with Google Reader, Bloglines, Pageflakes or Yahoo.
  2. Decide if you wish to have a webpage with Widgets (igoogle) or a Reader page(google/reader or Bloglines)
  3. Take a tour of the site you sign up with to learn how to use it.
  4. Visit the sites that you are interested in. Find the feeds icon.
  5. Click on the feed icon. A page will open with the feed info.
  6. All you need is the URL of the Feed page (address on top).
  7. Copy that URL.
  8. Open up you feed aggregator.
  9. Follow the links to "add stuff" or "add a feed".
  10. Paste that feed into the field.
  11. Label of move the feed to the folder or location you prefer.
  12. You are now subscribed to that feed.

Video tutorials for feed aggregators

A Five Minute Guide to Google Reader:

VIDEO: Using Google Reader

Subscribing to a blog or feed using Bloglines

Using RSS FEEDS in the classroom

RSS Feeds for Search Terms

You an create an RSS Feed for searches. A feed like this would immediately give you any updates to a particular topic that is available through a search engine search. This can be created with just about any search engine. If a student is researching the Election 2008, he or she can receive news about the election campaign in their aggregator as soon as it is made available.

If you are using IE7 you can do it in the following way.
  • Visit www.google.com
  • Click on "News" on top
  • Type your search terms in the search bar
  • Click on Search
  • Once the search results are displayed you will see the RSS logo turn Orange on the IE7 Top Bar.
  • Click on the RSS logo.
  • Copy the URL for the feed.
  • Add that URL to your aggregator.
  • You are now subscribed to that Search as a feed.
Here is a link to a short video that demonstrates how to create an RSS Search Feed and add it to you iGoogle page.