Thursday, July 23, 2009

Managing all those Blog feeds

One of the key indicators we are researching through our Manaiakalani Cluster projects is the impact of authentic audience on student motivation and engagement, and ultimately on their learning oucomes. This means that they are increasingly publishing their work in online spaces such as blogs. As our students move more and more into working in online spaces the task of tracking their changes and just keeping up with it all can become daunting, particularly for those in school management roles (and secondary school teachers) who are overseeing more then one class of students. At the moment there are close to 100 blog feeds alone from our cluster students, from Year 1 - 13.

I have been working with principals and teachers to introduce them to RSS and try to find a method that suits their eLearning style to aggregate their RSS feeds. We have explored all the usuals; Netvibes, Google Reader, iGoogle, browser based, Apple Mail (would love to know if Outlook and Entourage have simple RSS like Mail does), etc and the most commonly used appears to be adding a feed gadget to the sidebar of their own class blog, as I have done on this blog. But this doesn't allow for the sheer volume of blogs they want to follow.

I have come to accept that the sort of person who is reading this blog has no problem with the concept of RSS, but not everyone is willing to either set up an aggregator OR go searching for the feeds. Most willingly accept responsibility for a feed from the work they monitor from their own students as part of the job, but the rest of it feels too hard or too geeky. So I am trying another solution.

I have tried adding individual feeds to our cluster website using Grazr, and that worked well while we only had 10 or 20 accounts feeding in. As the numbers grew it has become a 'hunt the needle in the haystack' to try and find them.

In the holidays I saw isaac_d send a tweet from Twitterfeed and I checked it out to see if it might be a one stop solution for Manaiakalani. I created a new Twitter account, clusternz , then signed up to Twitterfeed and added all the RSS feeds from the cluster blogs one by one - very tedious, as even on our KAREN connection it doesn't load fast! Now every time one of the cluster blogs publishes a new post clusternz automatically sends out a tweet.

However, I didn't actually create it to Twitter from myself, as I can't imagine many people wanting to follow an account that only tweets blog updates! I really wanted the RSS feed that Twitter generates on the side bar.

So now I have another option for creating widgets schools can put on their web pages, like this one, or individuals can add to their blog side bars (an example in the sidebar of this blog), or the RSS feed works in Mail, iGoogle etc. I have had feed back from two people this week who say it already feels much better having all the kids' blogs consolidated into one feed and not swamping all the other feeds they follow.

The only problem with this is for teachers in schools who block twitter, but maybe if this is an effective system for the principals to use, they may unblock it ;)

And now, I am waiting to hear feedback from you all that there is a MUCH simpler solution that I haven't thought about yet.....


  1. try this - - I have not had much more than a simple play but it seems to do all that you are asking in one simple step ?

  2. i too struggle with my classes' blogs, and i only have 30! i don't know what to do about it - right now i simply log in and look at each one :O) however, i just bookmarked RSS to PDF Newspaper at and am hoping that it will print out the updates as they come in on my RSS feed (which i never have time to look at). it may not do that though. will be interested in checking back to see what others say.

  3. @gregcarroll Feed Mingle! So simple to use. Thank you very much for pointing that out. I have created one already and placed it down the bottom of the sidebar of this blog so anyone interested can have a look.
    Luckily I had started to copy/paste all the RSS feeds onto a text edit page incase I ever needed them again, so it was as simple matter of copying the list and pasting it into Feed Mingle.
    The drawback of it is that it doesn't display WHO the post is from, which is an option you can use in Twitter Feed. That is important to our cluster principals who are making decisions about how much time they can spend in a session on going through the feeds - knowing who posted it.
    But sooo easy to use.
    @kells Your one on the other hand looks complex to use, but effective so will have a play with it. Of course, my idea is that only someone who can be bothered worries about the geek side of it. As long as the final outcome is that I can embed an effective solution in the space of choice for those who aren't fascinated by what is under the hood :) One class teacher who has 30+ blogs Ka Tangi Hoki Ko Au manages by having all posts and comments sent to her email. She has chosen email as her eLearning style, and says this works best for her.

  4. Yes it was tedious using twitterfeed - it took me ages! I have put a widget on our homepage too... - we only have two followers as we have not made it public in our newsletter! (plus I don't think too many of our community are on twitter!). Hope to have plenty more followers of @EGSStokeNZ from our community soon. Really simple way to make it happen. I love the RSS feeds you have set up too!

  5. If the aim is to monitor rather than publish the aggregated feed, why not just use safari? All the separate feeds are listed one-by one a folder on the bookmark bar. Just drop down the folder and select View all RSS Articles.

  6. Hi Dorothy,
    I have been thinking about online monitoring for a while. I am wondering whose responsibility it is to monitor children's work when it is live under the school's name and class name. Is it management's responsibility or is it the class teacher’s responsibility.
    I would like to think that as we move more and more to using web tools that teachers could be responsible for monitoring their own rss feeds. I can visualise a teacher’s class page with rss feeds that management can dip in and out of. Eg: Wiki pages does this beautifully. The second point that is also important to note is feedback to our children’s work. Maybe we should be giving feedback and feed forward on our children’s online work just like we do for their book work. I am aware that several teachers already do this so this is not something new. Yours and others thinking on this is always greatly appreciated. Thanks for the opportunity to share ideas.