Posts Tagged 'rss'

“Smart mobs” are great, except in school?

Cross-posted at Classroom 2.0

Today’s top story from eSchool News Online is “Smart mob” tech spurs student activism by Nora Carr. The article begins with the student protests in Jena, LA, and explores how blogs, RSS, text messaging, cell phones, and wireless technology are leveling the playing field and having a democratizing effect at all levels in educational institutions.

Carr cites the work of Howard Rheingold, who coined the term “smart mobs” in a 2001 2002 book by the same title. Rheingold envisioned both the disruptive and democratizing effects of global, pervasive, wireless computing.

I was really enjoying Carr’s balanced presentation of the issue. She even discusses how teachers in various academic areas might use recent events such as the Jena protests and the current presidential campaign to engage young people in a critique of these powerful technologies.

Then, oddly, she writes:

While most school leaders undoubtedly applaud anything that gets young people involved in civic affairs, most also would agree there’s an appropriate time and place for such actions–and that’s typically after school or on the weekends, and not on school grounds.

I am not sure how to interpret the above statement. Is it an endorsement, or is it simply a statement about the status quo? As a columnist, it’s certainly Carr’s prerogative to impose her viewpoint where appropriate, but in this case it just seems contradictory. How can she in one instance encourage teachers to capitalize on the “powerful learning opportunity” represented in cases like Jena and the democratic rebellion in Myanmar, and then suggest that the technologies that mobilize citizens for the greater good still have no place on school grounds or during school hours?

That just doesn’t compute (sorry for the stupid pun).

It would be nice to engage in a dialogue with Carr about her story. But eSchool News Online doesn’t provide any contact information for her, and the site doesn’t provide a means for users to comment on stories either. Apparently the site does host discussions on certain stories for users who register for TypeKey accounts. I registered for an account but couldn’t locate any threads or forums related to Carr’s article.


So, what do you think?

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Tracking blog readership

Yesterday I received an email with “computer nerd” in the subject line. It was from a good friend and fellow blog author, who incidentally is also a minister.

Namecalling is hardly an attribute I would ascribe to the open, collaborative venue that is the read/write web, nor, for that matter, is it a behavior I would associate with someone whose sworn mission in life is Christian outreach. But I digress. . . .

Within my friend’s email was this question: Can you tell me how to track my readership, who follows my blog through an RSS feed?

A true “nerd” would have known the answer; I did not. What is totally cool and decidedly un-nerdy is I sort of had an idea how to find the answer. (Just a few months ago I wouldn’t have had a clue what she was talking about.)

For privacy reasons, I am not sure you can ever really know exactly who is lurking on your blog. I recently read somewhere that “really simple syndication” got its name because it’s easy and unintrusive — you shouldn’t have to forsake personally identifiable information just to tune into someone’s blog.

Anyone reading this post who can speak knowledgeably on the issue of blogs and privacy, please chime in!

My advice to my friend is to check out these free services: MyBlogLog, Technorati, and FeedBurner. Membership with these sites is free and once you’ve registered your blog with them, you can start receiving almost instantaneous data on your blog traffic.

MyBlogLog provides a cool widget that allows you to see who is visiting your page, but it only works with visitors who are themselves registered with the MyBlogLog community.

Technorati is a giant blog search engine and a good way to build traffic on your blog if you tag and ping. I don’t believe you can track RSS subscribers with it, but once you claim your blog on Technorati, you will know who is linking to your pages. Technorati tracks links and uses them to assign authority ratings and ranks. I currently have an authority of 3 and am ranked 1,803,855, thankyouverymuch!

FeedBurner is a quick registration process, but it takes a while for the service to generate data about your blog. (On the Internet, “a while” means more than one hour.) Once FeedBurner is done doing its thing, you log in, click the “analyze” tab, and see feed stats. I currently don’t have any subscribers, so I can’t tell you what these stats look like. Of course, that can all change if you click on the handy little widget I just installed to the left. Do it now! You know you want to. . . .

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My new "textbook"

One of my delights as an undergrad was the twice annual visit to the campus bookstore to buy my texts. My fellow English majors probably have similar fond memories: armloads of paperbacks with a few Norton anthologies thrown in for good measure. As a financial aid recipient, my checking account was always fat at the beginning of each new semester, and money seemed to be no object as I piled blue books, spiral-topped notebooks, and highlighters onto the checkout counter along with the semester’s readings.

Now, as a graduate student with a kid and a mortgage, the book-buying ritual isn’t nearly as fun, but thanks to a recent post at Weblogg-ed, I have a new way of thinking about my required reading for this semester and beyond.

To borrow Will Richardson’s metaphor, one of my “textbooks” this fall will be my RSS aggregator.

As described in my previous post, I will soon begin an independent study on best practices for computer-mediated, peer-to-peer mentoring for new and novice teachers. In addition to poring over traditional, “scholarly” resources, I plan to use RSS to channel the best-of-the-best blog posts on the subject. The aggregate is indeed a text to be studied, with the added benefits of being totally topical, customizable, and (the best part) free.

This means tweaking my RSS aggregator to regain some much needed focus. I’m in the process of dropping some feeds (if only temporarily) to make room for others that may be more fruitful.

For example, I’ve recently added subscriptions to blogs by Christopher D. Sessums and Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach.

Who/what am I missing?


Think on this:

"What if we just ignored the status of students in other countries? That wouldn’t be especially neighborly, but at least we wouldn’t be viewing the gains of children in other lands as a troubling development."

Alfie Kohn

"When I hear people say it's our job to create the 21st century workforce, it scares the hell out of me. Our job is to create 21st-century citizens. We need workers, yes, but we also need scholars, activists, parents -- compassionate, engaged people."

Chris Lehmann

Train of thought:

These are the communities where I network and cross-post. Come by for a visit!
Classroom 2.0
School Matters (East TN, USA)
Media Literacy