Syndication’s something that really hasn’t started to take off with me just yet. I’ll dabble around in it periodically, but then fall back on just going to the sites themselves. Not sure why… maybe it has something to do with me being a good little consumer and staying “on brand”: my target activity isn’t “I’m going to go read the news,” it’s “I’m going to MSNBC now” – complete with a layout and a color scheme and all sorts of visual content that doesn’t translate across an RSS feed.
The Google reader really is an impressive aggregator though. And, where I’m sort of set in my ways in how I go to see some content – others I don’t really have an established pattern of use for. Take blogs, for example. For the most part, I think blogs are really pretty much solely about the ideas contained in the posts. With a rare few examples, the goal isn’t to drive traffic to the site and make money on advertising and subscriptions. If you want to switch from Helvetica to Tahoma it’s not a big deal, because there’s really not a whole ton of investment in site identity. If you’re reading the ideas in Google Reader instead of on the site itself, it’s not quite as striking a visual difference as it is if you’re reading a news article.
I think that’ll probably change to a degree, over time. One thing I think a RSS feed probably lags behind in is information graphics. I’m not sure you can convey rich multimedia over a feed in the way you can text and simple images. When that sort of thing is more commonplace, I think RSS stands to make an even bigger impact.
Anyway, a blog is a prime candidate for use in a feed reader. It would definitely be a boon for a school, too. As an example, I’ve created a folder in my Google Reader for TPTE595. Rather than go and read 16 individual blogs on 16 different sites, I can look at one page and keep up with everyone’s posts. That facilitates discussion, because rather than spending all that time bouncing from URL to URL, I can just sit down, read everything in one spot, and move right on to commenting on things that I think are compelling and that I want to talk more about.
You could use RSS in different ways for different levels of learners, too. Like I said a minute ago, for some people, they can be used to facilitate discourse. For others, it could be used to reinforce the importance of viewing things from multiple sources, from different perspectives. Go read news articles from one event, and read the coverage on CNN, BBC, Le Monde, Al Jazeera – you’ll probably see very different presentations based on the same sets of facts. Which elements did each article stress? What was omitted?
Anyway, I think there are probably all kinds of different things that RSS can be leveraged for in a learning context, based on its strengths.