When I first started getting serious about learning from a lot of smart people about edtech, one of the most important things that I did was fill an RSS reader with blog feeds. First of all, I couldn’t believe the time that I saved by logging in to one site and having all of the things I wanted to read in one place, and second of all, filling a reader with feeds that I was interested in was like having access to a gold mine of smart people from around the world who were thinking deeply about issues that I cared about.
Over time, two things happened. The first thing that changed was the time bomb of twitter. While applications like skype had given the edtech community some immediacy in the past, twitter changed things completely. My log in now became a real time conversation with all of those smart people I had been reading. I also found that people started posting links to things they were publishing on their blogs on their twitter account.
My visits to my reader began to fade….
When Google declared war on RSS and the open web by killing off their reader it was a heavy blow for deep thinking and for blogging. At first, I didn’t miss it. I still had twitter after all. But over time, I began to realize that relying on twitter only for what I was going to read and learn was like relying on the remote control of my TV. It put me too much at the whim of other people and things I just happened to see. I had a great form of synchronous communication, but I had lost the intentionality of using asynchronous tools.
So I’m starting to rebuild a reader.
I started with feedly, but I just wasn’t comfortable with it as a tool. And then, strangely enough, I ran into Netvibes. For me, this was like finding a dinosaur out in the bush someplace. Netvibes was one of the original web 2.0 tools that I had used a decade ago. But it wasn’t the old Netvibes; it was new, fast, light and easy to use. I made an account and quickly found that I could use some of their pre loaded apps (like igoogle used to give us) and I could add RSS feeds that I wanted to read. I could switch between a number of layouts that looked like a customized homepage or I could have a more Google reader look.
Very importantly for me as a teacher, I could make pages of feeds on any topic and then share that entire page and all of its feeds with students in my class. We can build our own custom textbook on any topic.
So I’m slowly rebuilding a reader for myself and with my class. RSS is an important technology.