My reflection on using RSS to learn and develop a Personal Learning Network

Here is my reflection on our journey to use RSS to communicate and learn from one another.

Our Nelson Link Learning Cluster is a group of thirty-five schools wide spread from Hira to Wakefield to Riwaka in the Nelson basin. As you can see we are geographically spread so opportunities for group meetings are precious and costly. We are a primary school cluster with one Intermediate School, one residential school for girls with special learning needs, one specialised special needs school, rural, urban, contributing and full primary. It can take an hour and half to drive from one school to another!

We are loosely based around The Loop collaboration of schools working on fibre ultra-fast broadband but not exclusively so.

Cluster Goal
Our goal is to encourage teachers to share e-learning best practice, encouraging reflection and sharing.

Goal: Ensuring collegial support by encouraging teachers and schools to develop reflective practices to reflect on and share their e-learning experiences.

Intentions- why did we do this?

  • To bring the cluster teachers together to share practice and see what other teachers are doing with their blogs
  • For teachers to personalise their professional development by reading the thoughts of educational leaders directly
  • To interact with educational leaders directly by contributing to conversation in comments.
  • For Principals to be aware of what teachers on their staff are publishing on their school blogs in the school name.
  • For Principals to encourage and participate in the publishing of their teachers
  • For Principals to personalise their professional development by reading what other principals and thought leaders are sharing on line

Interventions- What we did
The cluster facilitator had attended Learning at School in Rotorua some years ago and attended a workshop run by David Warlick on using RSS as a means to personalising your online reading experience.

As part of our Lead Teacher Day programme at the end of last year (2010) we had had an attempt to set up a Google Reader RSS feed but it was not as successful as we had hoped because we are such a large group of nearly forty people and not all of us could connect to the internet at the same time so many of were not able to set up and populate their RSS feed.

We thought that having an RSS feed was an important way to help us move toward fulfilling our cluster goal of share e-learning best practice so we tried again in 2011 with the venue’s new wireless internet solution and we were all able to be on line at the same time. A screencast video tutorial could give some assistance to those who found the process tricky.

As a resource we used a handout by Sylvia Tolasino and the facilitator was able to share her personal RSS and how to add a READER and SUBSCRIBE bookmark to participants’ web browser toolbars. For some even being able to view their browser toolbar was a challenge.

We started by facilitating a workshop on Getting Good with Google where teachers were able to create a Google account if they did not already have one.

Many teachers over the past six months had already created a Google Account so it made sense to use Google Reader for their RSS feed as Bloglines was, at that stage, in decline, and some schools already have Google Apps.

We had previously recorded our cluster blogs on our wiki so teachers were able to retrieve their colleagues’ blogs from the database.

Teachers were then able to choose which blogs to subscribe to with their Google Reader. People were then encouraged to comment, encourage and learn from other’s blogs found through their RSS Reader. The aim is to reprise the concept each following cluster workshop so that we can share our challenges and new learning.

We repeated this session with Principals at their next cluster meeting. Principals looked at the activity from the differing perspective of knowing what is happening in their school and to learn from reading the blogs of other New Zealand principals and educational leaders.

The facilitator wrote a blog post with links to NZ blogging principals and invited others through her Twitter network and blog to add any principals that she had missed. Principals could then easily see the hyperlinks to the blogs of others.

Teachers and Principals were able to create an RSS feed. Some later asked for more individual assistance to make sure that they ‘got it’. This was appreciated as it showed that they could see the usefulness and purpose of having an RSS feed.

Some, although they created an RSS feed at the workshop, have not followed through to use and add to their RSS in their own time quoting a lack of time or focus on other things.

Lead Teachers are still getting to grips with the practice themselves and many are not yet ready to share their new learning with others on their staff.

Impact on students/teachers/whanau
Some lead teachers have really taken the practice on board and are successfully forming partnerships with other teachers and their classes through their class blogs. Teachers have reflected how cool it was to have their peers comment and give feedback on their blogs.

The teachers who are regularly checking their RSS feeds are learning what others are doing in their classes and are beginning to open their class to others.

Next Steps

  • We need to revisit using RSS at future Lead Teacher days to ensure that the practice becomes more embedded.
  • We need to encourage people to, once they have read their new content, to move out of their RSS reader to converse and give feedback to the authors on a more regular basis
  • We need to encourage and support Lead Teachers to share the use of RSS with their team back at school so that it becomes a regular way to share their practice and personalise their professional development.

Reflective interviews with Cluster personnel

  • Sandra Rolls: Tasman Bay Christian School 2 minutes: 41 sec

  • Charles Newton: Cluster Consultant 9 minutes: 34 sec

  • Cheryl Eden: Richmond Primary School 3 minutes: 41 sec

4 thoughts on “My reflection on using RSS to learn and develop a Personal Learning Network

  1. Hi Allanah
    I have enjoyed reading your reflection I don’t belong to a Cluster now so it is great to read how others are developing eLearning concepts. I have just started using RSS feeds myself so it was interesting to read the reflections of members of your cluster. I especially liked hearing Charles Newton talking about bringing principals on board with twitter and RSS feeds. I try to engage my principal on these topics but I swear his eyes glaze over! I will keep trying and hope maybe one day he might meet Charles. Keep up the great work you are doing with your cluster I am very envious of the opportunites you provide for them. I guess I should says thanks also because without twitter I wouldn’t know about RSS feeds and how they can support me professionaly

  2. Great post filled with some thoughtful reflection. I can’t even begin to imagine working across such a large cluster but you do so with ease! You have a range of knowledge and tools at your disposal and this cluster is extremely lucky to have you onboard!

    I wonder if you have tried linking all your RSS feeds to a single twitter account that some ‘I don’t have any time’ people might find it easier to follow or look at perhaps? It sounds like you are utilising the power of RSS in an effective way to share and communicate with each other – continue the big steps with the small steps! Kia Kaha, Amanda

  3. Hey Amanda

    I wonder if that can be done. It would be quite a good idea.

    I only have one Twitter account- wouldn’t want to spam people with hyperlinks.

    I wonder if anyone else does it.

  4. The only group that I’ve seen doing this is the Manaiakalani cluster through this link –!/clusternz

    You could set it up and see how it runs – I don’t think it would be spam. Maybe set up a teachers/principals one and a students one so there is not a bombardment of links as you say!

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