Monday, January 31, 2011

RSS Assignment

Glenda Carmack

INST 5330

Spring 2011

How To Use RSS Or How Not To Use RSS, That Is The Question

So I stole a line from Shakespeare for my title, but it does get to the point of the matter. RSS is an acronym for Rich Site Summary or Real Simple Syndication (Richardson, 2005). The reason for the two variations has to do with the development of the format, but what is important to remember is just the acronym. Initially, it was based on a innovation created by the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) which allowed news to be be “pushed” to a desktop application in a ticker tape type display that constantly displayed news Since that was proprietary software, the need to develop an open file format became necessary. Netscape developed a file format in its browser software that allowed the user to personalize their resource list. Unfortunately, Netscape suffered from competition with Microsoft and ceased their involvement. But web blog community needed a system, so W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) worked with developers and built upon the work by Netscape and basically created the version of RSS we use today (Kelly, 2005). Now that we understand the history, lets turn to how RSS can be used.

Since the explosion of the internet, information has become instantaneous in many formats from many different sources, RSS is a resource for aggregating all that Web content in one place. Instead of checking several different websites for updated information, a user subscribes to the different feeds of interest and is notified when new content is available and can be checked via one source. There are desktop version of readers or there are web version of readers. This disadvantage of the desktop software is that it is only available on that computer, and nowadays, many people use several computers. The advantage of a browser based reader, it allows you to access the content from any computer because the information is hosted on a server.

I subscribed to RSS feeds using my mail application on my Mac computer. Since I am constantly viewing my email application, this was very convenient for me. When I view my feeds, it indicates the number of new posts next to the feeds and then I can choose which ones I read. To be able to see the comments, I have to go to the blog post and to comment, requires logging in. Since I already have a google account, I decided to use the google reader. What is nice about google, is the ability to create an igoogle page that displays information based upon your personalization. I added the reader application with just a few keystrokes and placed it on my igoogle page. It gives me the number of unread posts and I can access it from any computer, even my android phone. What is great about mobile ability, if I have time to read, for instance in the car or waiting for an appointment, I can use my device to make the most of my downtime. It may seem like a smart phone is a luxury, but since I need to have the phone, I might as well combine the most features into one device and mobile phones are the most popular mobile device (Garofalakis, 2007). And whenever we get mobile high speed, it will really function nicely. I tried to use Sage as a Firefox plugin, but it would not load my feeds and since my time was limited, I decided to go with google reader. Many web blogs can also push to popular sites, for instance Facebook. Instead of using my RSS reader, I get updates through my news feed. I find this very useful for companies to let consumers know about new products and updates. And even though I am very comfortable with technology, the RSS process is easy to grasp and setup. I did find A Quick Start Guide For Educators by Will Richardson I would highly recommend. He also has a website that I have added and would recommend.

Since I have a full-time job and a family, as well as being a student, it can be difficult to keep on top of the ever changing field of technology. One way I do this is by subscribing to some educational technology sites. I have two sites that I would highly recommend: Educational Technology edited by Ray Schroeder and eCampus News. These two sites provide me with plenty of updates for my limited time. One of the “unofficial duties” of my job is to be a technology advisor to the faculty and students in my academic department. I let them know about software and web resources that I learn about from these sources and I have used them many times. The faculty and graduate students in my department need to know about current research in their sub-disciplines and many use the topic specific sites to keep current which is extremely important in the sciences. By using an RSS search feed, you can set up a feed based on a topic and you are notified when there are any new articles published. For me personally, since photography relies so heavily on technology, it is necessary to stay current in the field and the best way I know of staying current, is the use of RSS feeds.

Overall, RSS feeds is one of the best ways to keep current in most subject matters. As we become more dependent on electronic transmission of information, it becomes necessary to use the best tools to make the information work for us and not work to get the information. By harnessing the power of the RSS, we manage are ability to stay current.

Reference List

Kelly, Brian. (2005). RSS - More Than Just News Feeds. News Review of Information Networking. 11(2), 219-227.

Garofalakis, John. (2007). Using RSS Feeds For Effective Mobile Web Browsing. Universal access in the information society (1615-5289), 6 (3), p. 249.

Richardson, Will. (2005). The ABCs of RSS. Technology and Learning. 25(10), 20.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Open Source

So even though I was familiar with the term "open source" I have to admit, I did not really know much about it. So after doing some research, I have become more acquainted with open source applications and even realized I had been using a few and not even realizing I was using open source.

What really separates open source from free applications and proprietary applications is the ability to edit the application. It is generally licensed under GNU (General Public License). Realizing that in order to edit an application would require knowledge of code and time to spend playing with the application, I have neither, so that is probably why I don't take full advantage of open source applications. I mostly use shareware and proprietary applications, but I do use some open source applications.

The one I use most is Audacity. Audacity is an application that lets you record and edit audio files. I have used it for several years and I am pleased at how easy it is to use. I use it to record my own audio files to playback on my mp3 player (iPod). When I first started taking online classes, the component I missed most was sound. I really missed listening to lectures and having oral discussions, and I would rather talk than have written discussions. So to help myself understand content better, I would read my assignments out loud and record my voice with Audacity. I would then may mp3 files that I could listen to on my computer or iPod.

I found this had several advantages for me, I would actually read the assignment and not just skim it and I learned how to enunciate the words. As I was listening to my assignment, I would also follow along with the text, highlight the main points and take notes. It added that audio component I was so desperately missing. I am a firm believer in the adage: I need to see it, read it, write it and listen to it in order to learn and fully comprehend new material. It is not for everyone, but it worked for me.

Another open source application that I have used is OpenOffice. This software is an office suite software that includes a word processor, spreadsheet, presentation, drawing and database software. It will open many file formats and it will save documents in compatible file formats, so file sharing is easier for the user. I have recommended this option to several students who cannot afford proprietary software. Moodle is open source course management software and I have used it as a student. If a school district cannot afford course management software, this is a viable option for instructors.

So that is my take on open source software. I have learned a lot this week and I am going to work towards posting earlier in the week so I will allow my classmates more opportunity to interact with my posts.

Monday, January 17, 2011

INST 5330 Week 1

I originally set this blog up for personal use with the intention of blogging at least once a week, but fell short, so I am glad for the opportunity to get started again and I hope this class is the impetus to fall into better habits.

A little about myself: I work full time for UCM in the Biology and Earth Science Department as the office professional. The other day on Facebook someone asked me "What is an office professional?" It took me a while to answer, for people outside of academia, it is hard to describe how a department at a university operates, but it is very similar to an office manager with added responsibilities of helping students as well as the faculty and staff. I love the university environment, even with all its craziness and stress, there is no place I would rather work. My undergraduate degree is in photography, and I started my work on a Masters in Educational Technology in the Fall of 2009. I had to drop my class last semester because my youngest daughter was hospitalized and has required lots of follow up doctor's appointments. Fortunately she is going to be okay, but she does have a genetic clotting disorder that makes her more susceptible to blood clots, so as long as we keep her medication in balance and watch for signs of clotting, we will be okay. So since I work full time and have a family that includes my husband of over 15 years, my two older children who no longer live at home, Natasha is doing a Masters in Public Health at MU and Christian is engaged and lives and works in Warrensburg. Tara is in the 8th grade and Reeves is in the 5th grade and keep us very busy, so I only manage a class or two a semester.

I love technology, always have and probably always will. I love how it challenges me to learn and keep learning and have been amazed over the years how integrated it has become in our everyday life. I am also amazed at how quickly we accept technology and become accustomed to it being available. I really believe a place is out dated if it does not have free WiFi available and I can access the internet from my phone driving down the road. I also enjoying teaching others about technology which is why I chose this degree and hope that I can stay in academia in some capacity until I retire, which won't be any time soon. My great fascination at the moment is the iPad and what it has to offer. I am experimenting with using it with data projectors to present electronic presentations, it has wonderful features and is so light weight and portable, I see it replacing laptops very soon. It is not your primary computer, it is still a peripheral, but it packs a mighty punch.

For me to share a favorite book I have read is difficult, most of my free time is spent reading textbooks and articles for classes, so pleasure reading isn't always high on my priority list for free time. But I am a huge fan of audio books, and I believe listening to books can be as important as reading them. So when we drive to Florida for vacation once a year, during that time I listen to books, I can't read in a car it makes me nauseated. So I listen to books and the last one I enjoyed the most was written by an author I went to high school with. He has written a sequel and I hope to listen to it when it comes out on audio. It is called DandyFlowers and it is by Jordan T. Maxwell. Now, I knew him by a different name, so don't go searching my high school class for his name, you won't find it. But I do keep in touch with him on facebook under his pen name and his real name. It is very popular among young christian teenagers, due to its moral message and lack of profanity. It is a very sweet love story and his writing reminds me of our home town and high school. So enough for this week, I look forward to blogging and reading everyone's blogs.