Guest Post: Students Reading for Pleasure: The Power of the RSS Feed
By all accounts, getting students to read for pleasure is tied to an extraordinary number of positive outcomes, including but not limited to the following: improved reading comprehension, increased writing ability, better use of grammar, increased vocabulary, increased civic awareness and community participation, and greater self-confidence. Kids read for pleasure less and less frequently as they get older, presumably at least partly due to the increase in required homework they are asked to tackle. With this in mind, the solution seems clear: we need to find ways to interest older students in reading for pleasure while also accounting for their often-packed schedules.
My solution: the RSS feed.
Long declared dead in some circles, feed readers remain an outstanding way for students to self-select fresh new content about whatever they’re interested in. I strongly believe that we should spend time helping our secondary students to set up a feed reader (such as Google Reader or Apple’s Reeder). Once that is complete, in-class time should be spent helping students subscribe to each other’s blogs (if applicable) and to other blogs in content areas they find interesting. The beauty of doing this together in class is that students will be able to share their finds with each other; kids with interests in sports, for example, may end up helping each other to locate and follow several of the same sports-themed blogs.
Voila! In as little as two class periods, you can help students to create their own free, individualized collection of reading material, delivered directly to them as soon as more content is published, which will never run out. Research has shown that students with more access to good reading material in their homes tend to attain higher levels of education in their own lives. An RSS reader (plus an internet connection) can serve as the great equalizer, ensuring that all students (even those without books in the home) have access to great reading material at all times. On another positive side note, setting up RSS feed readers in class as described above may also encourage students to blog more frequently, knowing that their teachers and peers will see their posts right away in their feed readers.
Or, of course, we could simply keep bribing our kids with pizzas instead.
About the Author:
Neven Jurkovic’s interest in teaching mathematics with technology developed while pursuing a Master of Science degree at Southwest Texas State University. Apart from publishing a number of papers on the application of artificial intelligence in elementary mathematics problem solving, Neven is the creator of Algebrator, a widely used math tutoring software. Currently, he lives in San Antonio, TX and is the CEO of Softmath: http://softmath.com/