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Thursday, October 6, 2011

What can RSS do for you?

RSS icon from Merit World
LOTS, actually. Really Simple Syndication is just that, really simple.  It allows you to subscribe to resources and have them come to your inbox (or a reader of your choice--there are several to choose from) rather than you going in search of your favorite sites every day to see what's new.  The same way you can subscribe to a newspaper and have it delivered to your house, instead of driving to the nearest convenience store every day, RSS brings the news you want directly to you. It's brilliant.

Google Reader is one popular method of subscribing to RSS feeds, and CWA employees with Tarrier Apps accounts can use them to login to Reader and get started. For academic research purposes, I think there is a huge benefit to using Google Reader in the Tarrier Apps environment, especially with your students, and I will spend more time on that concept in a different blog post. For today, I'm sharing how I use Apple's as an RSS reader. Because I use Mail all the time to manage 5 different email accounts*, and it's something I always have open, I like to keep my RSS feeds here.

First, in Mail's preferences, set the Default RSS Reader to Mail.

When you encounter the RSS symbol shown above on any website, clicking it will give you the option to subscribe to that site's content. Usually, there will be a number of options to choose from, but for Mail to handle your feeds, you'll want to look for the XML option. When you click it, Mail will open and a folder just for that site will appear in a space reserved for RSS feeds.  As you add more, you will find that they automatically get placed in alphabetical order. Here's a screen shot of my Mail inboxes and RSS feeds (they run off the screen because I currently subscribe to 44 feeds--added a new one since yesterday, yikes--I'd recommend starting with just a few):

A word of warning...there are times I open Mail to find that I have hundreds (!) of articles to catch up on. Do I read them all? Sometimes. More often, I scan through pretty quickly and pick out the best, which coincidentally, is a skill we need to be teaching our students as they sift through loads of information. My feeds are a mixture of professional blogs, personal interests, friends' published work, and even one that's just photographs tagged "inspirational." Sometimes I need those as a little pick me up. :)

Thomas Edison. Image from Piccsy
My RSS feeds have put me in touch with brilliant educators who encourage and challenge me to think in different directions and try new things. I have found innumerable technology resources and ideas for curricular integration. And I get parenting advice, photography tips, and comical laughs to boot. I would strongly encourage you to start with just a few feeds and see where it takes you. If you subscribe to something that doesn't turn out to be so great, delete the feed! There's no harm in trying something out.

To get you started, here are a few of my very favorites:
Please contact me if you would like some help setting up an RSS reader. It's a great start to building a PLN.

*Using Mail for email
For my personal workflow, I keep First Class and Mail open simultaneously all day. We have shown many of you how to use Google Notifier to keep you aware of new email to your address. Some of you have opted to forward this email to First Class instead, so you don't miss anything. I prefer to keep the two separate, and while that might not be everyone's organizational method of choice, I find it much more convenient for me. Simply open Mail and then go to the Preferences.

Click on the "Accounts" tab, and then go to the + at the bottom to add a new account. Put in your email address IN FULL, and your password, and then follow the steps to complete your account, it's that simple!

Be aware that you do not have access to all the features of gmail using a 3rd party reader. For example, you cannot type in someone's name and have it auto-fill all the email addresses in our domain the way you can in the online interface. Still, if you're just looking for a way to stay on top of your emails, this is a great way to do quick read and replies.


  1. Thanks for passing along my two main blogs. Much appreciated. Let me know if you have any suggestions!

  2. Thanks for visiting, Dr. McLeod! I read your work daily, and refer to you often. YOU are much appreciated. :)

  3. Thanks for including my blog as well!

    Nick Sauers

  4. Nick, I have followed your writing for quite some time, and enjoyed your most recent "Quotes I hate!" post. Though we are not a 1-to-1 school, I have learned so much from your writing, and I thank you profoundly for your contributions to my professional growth. Hope the dissertation is going well!