Experience API and RSS News/Podcast Aggregators in Education

fireworks exploding from a woman's smartphone

I am a big believer in RSS News Aggregators as a core technology for lifelong learning. By allowing each individual person to curate their own interests and get in the habit of consuming a steady stream of news relevant to their interests, RSS lets people build their own personalized diet of valuable information. My own Feedly news subscriptions and PlayerFM podcast subscriptions help me stay abreast of new developments in the fields of tech, education, design, and current events. This post discusses how podcasts and RSS news readers could be used in education via the xAPI (Experience API).

How can this enhance teaching and learning?

Since podcasts and RSS feeds provide me so much value, I’m always thinking of ways these valuable resources can be brought to bear in formal education.

Rather than giving students a one-and-done reading assignment about an issue in your subject matter field, why not get them hooked on some reliable news sources that they could stay subscribed to long after they’ve passed your course?

Instead of sending your students a PDF to read, why not send them an OPML file of the top 10 blogs and professional organizations in your field so they can start to follow the ongoing conversations in that field? Or maybe offer them a podcast feed they can drop into their podcatcher of choice, listening to someone cover a concept in the appealing format of a radio show?

Communicating our RSS consumption habits

I would like to see the major RSS aggregators and podcatching apps start to interface with the Experience API so students and teachers could publish a feed of their listening and reading habits back in to the learning platforms they use. This way, a teacher may assign students to listen to a five-episode podcast, and the students’ podcast app could let them LMS know when they’ve finished listening to each one.

As you may know, the Experience API creates a feed of learning activities that a student can perform using any web app. It has a syntax that goes something like this:

[user] [performed action] in [application].

So you might have a feed that reads something like

[Ted] [read article "RSS is Awesome"] in [Feedly].
[Ted] [listened to "Privacy Paradox"] in [PlayerFM].
[Ted] [read article "TedCurran.net/about"] in [Feedly].

Students could also just maintain a personal “History” page that shows them a history of all the articles they’ve read in their Inoreader, similar to the browsing history in their web browser. They could choose to share this history selectively with other students, teachers, or friends on social media, and generate conversation around relevant articles.

Of course, xAPI shouldn’t just be an indiscriminate paper trail of what students have/haven’t read and listened to, viewable to anyone. I can see how, used without the proper care, it could be used to penalize students for not reading and listening to things when they’re expected to. It would be best if students retained the agency to share this data trail when it suits their needs and enhances their learning.

Your thoughts?

Sometimes I feel like I’m shouting down a hole when I talk about RSS, blogs, and podcasts. I think they’re such valuable and underutilized tools, but I fear the world is passing them by in favor of social media tools like Twitter, Reddit, and Facebook. I see those tools as more disempowering to individual users because they are proprietary (not open), centralized (not decentralized), and profit-driven (not free).

I’d love it if interested readers would post comments or shout out on Twitter where we could talk about ways to promote the use of RSS in education. I think there’s a lot of potential in this approach and I feel like the only one talking about this right now!

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Written by

Ted Curran is a Learning Experience Designer/Developer for Autodesk. He is committed to empowering educators and learners to create transformational change through effective pedagogy and technology integration. You can follow Ted on Mastodon, LinkedIn or learn more at my 'About" page. These thoughts are my own.

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