RSS in EFL Education

I have known about RSS for quite a while, yet this is my first foray into using it personally. RSS promises to help organize how I receive information by cleaning up my gmail inbox. For the longest time, I have received RSS like emails from various companies and blogs with newsletters containing the information that I will now obtain through RSS. I like the folder and bundle capabilities of Google reader. One thing I detest is long lists of unorganized links or bookmarks that require exhaustive searches. This combined with key word searchability will make RSS a valuable tool in my future toolbox.

Whenever I stumble upon a tool or application that I know will enhance my life, I always try to consider how it might be useful in the classroom. Whether blogs, or podcasts or Youtube, as soon as I become aware, incorporation is imminent. RSS will be no different.

As an EFL teacher in Korea, I’m often trying to have my students look beyond the shores of the peninsula. Culture; travel; food; adventures; all this and more can be explored and discussed by my students as they extend their English ability. RSS would allow my students to create resource lists that fit their interests and allow them to practice English. They could also share these with the class and assignments could be built around locating and sharing sites that students rank as most interesting or appropriate. The longer the list of useful RSS feeds grows, the more my students will be exposed to using English. I think this will promote a sense of community where each student is responsible and hopefully driven to participate. Combining feeds with creating blogs as well as holding class discussions covers all four core English abilities and would greatly benefit my students. The blogs that students create would also be RSS fed to each student in class letting them easily keep track of who is saying what. I imagine this would be an excellent catalyst for inspiring contribution.

For the past four years, I have used wikis to keep my students up-to-date on the class schedule, assignments and announcements. RSS would make it quite convenient for my students to receive updates. In the past I have updated my wiki with links to sites. By using RSS, students could keep track of the sites most commonly visited for class and I can add to bundle feeds anytime I find a useful site, want to introduce a new topic or expect students to read for homework. Instead of printing and copying articles and handing them out to students at the start of class or as homework, students will receive the article before class through RSS and be prepared to use the information.

I have just a couple concerns with RSS. First, as others have made mention to, RSS feeds could quite quickly explode into an unmanageable amount of information to process. That said, one could easily ignore sites until there is a need to ‘re-find’ them again. By having the RSS feed, remembering great sites will be easy even if you don’t plan to keep up with them on a daily basis. My other concern is that students may just link to a site and share it within their RSS community without much consideration for the quality of the content in an effort to complete an assignment. All involved would then waste time visiting the site, only to dismiss it for useless. As I’m sure this will happen regardless, a lesson could be included on evaluating the relevance of sites and the quality of the information.

Enjoy this bundle of resources.

This activity meets the AECT Standard 3: 3.1 Media Utilization