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Organize Your (and Your Students’) News

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rss RSS (Real Simple Syndication) feeds and their little orange icon have been around the web for a long time (remember Google Reader?). Usually, people use RSS to collect personal news digests. However, the ubiquity of specialized feeds and the recent increase in academically rigorous blogs means that beyond just getting you your morning news, RSS feeds can also collect articles related to your research and teaching.

The beauty—and main selling point—of getting your news through RSS is that content from around the web is collected in one location for you. This means that rather than remembering to go to a dozen different websites, you can just go to one location where it is all waiting to be read.

Feeds can also help you filter out the noise from sites you visit. Rather than sifting through an entire website to find stories you are interested in, subscribe to a feed about a specific subject. Do you just want the local stories from the Washington Post? There’s a feed for that. Do you only want the evolutionary psychology stories from Scientific American? There’s a feed for that. Are you specifically looking for stories about China’s economy from The Economist? There’s a feed for that.

Don’t stop at traditional news sources. Most organizations have a feed that contains all of their press releases and publications. Does your research involve staying current on particular elected officials, businesses, agencies, organizations, etc.? Subscribe to their feed and immediately get notified anytime they produce new content.

Beyond organizing your own news sources, RSS feeds can also help organize what your students are reading. Rather than just tell your students to “stay up-to-date on current events,” give them a curated list of feeds that you expect them to read before each class. Essentially, you can use RSS to create a free, supplemental electronic textbook that updates in real-time. If your students are each researching a particular topic, have them find feeds that keep them updated on their chosen research area. The possibilities for tailored news digests are endless.

There are a number of RSS readers on the market today, but we recommend Feedly (www.feedly.com). The free tool has a clean, easy to use, problem-free interface on both the web and mobile devices.

To learn more about using RSS in your classroom schedule a one-on-one tutorial or attend one of our workshops this coming Spring.

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Video is Worth A Whole Bunch of Words

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“If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a video is worth ten thousand.”
That’s the theory, anyway, when it comes to online content. Video is increasingly becoming the lingua franca of the digital realm. As advertisements, educational technology, and entertainment all train us in the visual and auditory vocabulary of this content style, it becomes incumbent upon us as educators to incorporate this skillset into the classroom. It’s a powerful tool in the toolbox of the educator.

To that end, the Teaching and Learning Resource Group has unveiled a new project that will put this theory into practice. We looked around our office and saw not only a wealth of information on a variety of instructional technologies and methodologies, but a group of engaging and creative teachers. Why not (we asked ourselves) create a video repository to leverage our collective knowledge? And so we have begun to do just that, figuring that if video is the language of the Internet, then it can also serve our purpose to supplement our workshops, events, and trainings.

Beginning this month, we plan on releasing a series of videos illuminating some of our favorite instructional technologies. From Google Drive, to Prezi, to RSS feeds–we want to develop a range of content that will be accessible and useful to AU faculty and staff. The videos will function as both promotions for various instructional aids, and as primers for their specific functions.

Take, for example, our Google Drive promo. We created this video specifically for educators, focusing on how Docs can be used to comment on students’ work, how Google Presentation can be used in lieu of PowerPoint to develop classroom lessons, and how Forms can be used to administer tests and quizzes. These videos are selected and designed for you.

If you have any suggestions for future video topics, or questions about the process, please feel free to contact us at CTRLtlr@american.edu. And stay tuned for our first video on Google Drive, to be released later next week!

TLR starts… blogging!

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The Teaching & Learning Resources group is excited to take part in the new CTRL Connect blog! This blog will serve as a space for us to share some useful and (hopefully) interesting information with the amazing faculty and staff of American University.

Some things you can expect from us:

  • News and updates from the TLR office, including the upcoming Ann Ferren Conference 2015
  • Interviews with AU faculty/staff on how they’ve incorporated technology in their classes in innovative and interesting ways
  • Monthly reviews of new apps, tools and software that could make teaching (and life in general) easier
  • Quick tips and guidelines on the various tools from our Technology in the Classroom Workshops

We do hope that you join us in this amazing adventure. Stay tuned!