In a word, really. Really Simple Syndication (or RSS) is a way of publishing online information that is frequently updated. Think Podcasts and BBC News. Or, more recently, Twitter and Facebook.
I’ve been experimenting with RSS on my blog recently, as you can see in the sidebar at right. (Though if you’re reading this post in archived form far in the future, I may have moved, deleted, or in some other way changed them.)
Currently, I have my Twitter feed, my Facebook status, and my Del.icio.us links. In addition to my tweets, my Twitter feed is updated every time I add a blog post. So, in some ways, my blog feeds Twitter, which feeds my blog.
This process has me thinking a lot about my personal and professional presence online. How much is too much? How much do my students expect? How narcissistic is it to post your Facebook status to your blog? In general, I only use technologies like Facebook for professional purposes, but it can be hard to draw the line.
Perhaps the biggest question is, how can we, and why should we, use these technologies for language teaching? In the business world, I think it is easy to see applications. I read about a Silicon Valley tech firm that has a flatscreen next to the elevator door that lists employees’ Twitter feeds. Seeing who’s doing what, can promote interaction in new ways.
Within the context of education, using these technologies is a way of meeting students in the digital world that they already inhabit. I interact with more students via Facebook than email. Being able to tie all of these resources together via RSS feeds can give students one place to look for everything (listening homework .mp3s, links to supplemental reading articles, information about extracurricular activities, etc.), which eliminates the excuse of having looked for an assignment in email, when it was posted to the Moodle, or vice versa.
Will these technologies change the way we teach our students? Not all at once, but the process has already begun.