MET:Using RSS Feeds to Enrich Learning

From UBC Wiki

Authored by Glenn Allen 65A Winter 2011

RSS in Education

RSS (Really Simple Syndication) helps people find and distribute information in very efficient ways. Aggregators(or Readers) watch for new content or feeds that one has subscribed to, then brings these results back in the form of links. Information automatically comes to the subscriber.

With the explosion of information over the internet and increased use of mobile devices to access and share information, there have been suggestions that new types of reading and writing literacies are becoming important.

The US National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) offers that “twenty first century readers and writers need to manage, analyze and synthesize multiple streams of simultaneous information" (Richardson, 2010, p. 73).

When used in conjunction with social bookmarking and tagging, RSS feeds can quickly link together people with like or similar interests. Once engaged, it is possible that the information seeker (reader) may eventually become a contributor (writer).

With the ability to topically access information from a variety of sources, feeds can help students make connections across cultures, examine different values, and witness multiple perspectives. Through the use of keywords or tags, RSS feeds can be set up to search for information on any topic from a variety of sources including: web pages, blogs, images, video and sound files.

In addition to finding existing information, a benefit of RSS involves setting up searches or queries as feeds for information that does not yet exist. This is like being on a customized information wait list. Fundamentally, a student can set up a feed to alert them whenever a particular keyword or tag is found, for as long as they want. This feature could possibly help sustain a student’s interest in a topic beyond the scope of the unit or course of study.

RSS for Class Projects

RSS feeds can be useful for class projects related to research or current events that span over a period of time throughout a semester or school year. Once a project has been assigned, students can set up topical feeds and begin gathering current information from a variety of sources as it becomes available. Students overwhelmed with information or dissatisfied with results can tweek their search criteria and learn how to discern and evaluate which information is more relevant and valid from sources that may be less credible.

A link to a short video has been provided to show how easy it is to set up a customized feed, and how the aggregator/reader begins to bring back results.


Using RSS as a Tool for Feedback and Assessment

Used in conjunction with other tools like blogs and e-portfolios, teachers can easily use RSS feeds to quickly determine what their students have been working on and provide formative feedback in a timely matter when the feedback is still important and needed. It is also useful for students to know that their teachers are interested and checking in.

Let’s say that each student in a class is provided with a blog or e-portfolio space that supports RSS feeds (Wordpress in an example). By subscribing to each student's feed, the teacher’s reader will automatically check and update the feed whenever changes to the student's workspace has been made. A teacher can quickly go down a list to see what changes have been made, and make comments with a simple click rather than having to individually navigate to each student page.

Please click on the image to see a larger version

The image on the left shows how a Wordpress blog has been set up so that each student is aware of what other students are doing. They know when updates occur and can visit and comment simply by clicking on the link. A teacher can do the same thing.

Along the same idea, teachers can set up RSS feeds to share new materials with students (announcements, lecture notes, podcasts, screencasts, and other materials) and have this information delivered directly to the student’s reader ( including mobile devices).

RSS and Educational Social Booking

Using RSS, teachers can easily share information and resources with students that will be instantly available to them in their readers or directly in their blogs(if RSS is supported).

Teachers often make resources available by updating Learning Management System course pages or by sending out e-mails. This can be a tedious task as setting up the links can be time consuming.

Using RSS in conjunction with social bookmarking, a teacher (or student) can use a single source (their personal bookmarks), to share information. Popular social bookmarking applications include Delicious and Diigo among others. Usually groups sharing bookmarks must have proprietary accounts and use the same application. It could be difficult to get everyone using the same application, however, using RSS in conjunction with social bookmarking allows anyone access to shared bookmarks whether or not they use or subscribe to social bookmarking sites themselves.

Let’s consider an example using Diigo. A teacher with a Diigo account can make his/her bookmarks available to anyone, or set up groups for certain classes or subjects. Once a student has the RSS feed for the teacher's bookmark set up in their reader or blog, anytime the teacher adds something to his/her bookmark, it will show up in the student's reader/blog like any other feed. The student does not need to be signed up with Diigo, and unlike normal bookmarks, (depending on the type of reader used), the feed will work on any computer.

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Educause RSS Resources

Educational Uses for RSS Feeds

E-Learning > RSS Learning

Google Alerts

Google Reader

Excerpts from RSS for Educators by John G. Hendron

RSS Ideas for Educators


Alexander, B. (2006). Web 2.0 A new wave of innovation for teaching and learning, Educause Quarterly, 41(2), 32-44.

Cuiying Mu, (2008) "Using RSS feeds and social bookmarking tools to keep current", Library Hi Tech News, 25(9), 10-11.

Duffy, Peter and Bruns, Axel (2006) The use of blogs, wikis and RSS in education: A conversation of possibilities. In Proceedings Online Learning and Teaching Conference 2006, pp. 31-38, Brisbane. Retrieved February 23, 2011 from

Harrsch, M. (2006). RSS: The next killer app for education. Retrieved February 24, 2011, from

Finkelstein, E. (2005). Syndicating web sites with RSS feeds, Hokebon, NJ: Wiley.

Richardson, W. (2010). Blogs, wikis, podcasts and other powerful tools for the classroom, Thousand Oaks, CA:Corwin.