November 23, 2014

Inoreader Project for Connected Courses: Big Update

I mentioned here in an earlier post that I need to think in terms of projects for pretty much anything I do (and yes, my husband teases me about it, but he also suffers from projecitis too). So, for Connected Courses, I decided that my project would be to re-build my PLN, with a specific focus on how I could use Inoreader to make that happen. I was already using Inoreader for my classes and they were feeling pretty "connected," but my PLN was a mess. I was really concerned about that because Connected Courses was introducing me to so many people that I want to stay connected with. Plus, Connected Courses was making me think a lot about connections, networks, curation, and RSS. In terms of new ideas and challenges to my personal status quo, Connected Courses has been a really amazing experience for me. So, I've been really working hard on that over the past few weeks, and now I can summarize the VERY GOOD THINGS that have been happening as a result.

1. PLN Re-Connected. I have managed to connect with my PLN via their blogs and Twitter thanks to the power of Inoreader. This feels great! I'm still not the best at using Twitter, but Inoreader has really helped me a lot. Google+ is still my main place for hanging out online, but I am using Inoreader every day to do a better job of keeping up with people's blogs and with Twitter. The results have been fantastic; one way to see that is in my weekly news round-up. I am so much more in touch now with the great things people are writing and the great things people are doing with their classes: News Round-Ups.

2. Content Curation at My Omnifeed. For several years, I've been aware that I am seriously failing at curation. I do okay with my classes (and even there, lots of room for improvement), but I do a pretty terrible job of curating the important things I find online beyond what is happening in my classes. Google+ and Twitter are ephemeral spaces, with basically no useful curation tools. I tried using Diigo and IFTTT, but that didn't work for me for all kinds of reasons. But when I created my Omnifeed at Inoreader, that gave me the basis to build a real curation strategy! I need to write that up in a separate post but, suffice to say, Inoreader now shows me all my "stuff" (what I post AND what I share) in my blogs, at Google+, at Twitter, at Diigo and at Pinterest all in one place. Once that happened, I was able to develop what I think is a good curation strategy that moves content with long-term value from ephemeral spaces (Google+, Twitter) to more stable spaces (blogs, Diigo). Here's more about that: Inoreader Omnifeed.

3. New Inoreader Google Site. Yes, believe it or not, I am building a little website to document my use of Inoreader: Teaching with Inoreader. I wanted to do this both for my own sanity (I might forget all the great things I learned this semester!) and also to make it easier to share with others. I've been getting lots of inquiries from people about Inoreader (thanks especially to Alan Levine for the shout-out at the Blog Talk Garage!), and I wanted to organize by scattered thoughts in one place. Normally blogs are the way I think/work: in the moment, piece by piece, always changing, totally ad hoc. This time, though, I needed something more permanent and organized. Plus, it's a fantastic way for me to experience again what it's like to build a Google Site. There are some real limitations to Google Sites, but some real advantages too, and as a result of building/maintaining this site, I will do a better job of supporting my students as they use Google Sites too!

4. Reignited Love of RSS. My main motivation for joining Connected Courses was to see Alan's blog syndication machine in action. The whole process of joining up and then getting to see all the blog posts in the stream was really thrilling for me. I love everything about how that works, and I am so glad for the people I have met in Connected Courses who are super-fabulous bloggers, like Simon Ensor, Maha Bali, Mariana Funes, and so many others! And just look at how different their blogs are: so many blogs and so many ways to blog! My Inoreader solution is very different: people cannot "self-enroll" to create an ever-expanding community, for example. But still, I am amazed at the way my students can blog in their own individual space, designing and developing that space on their own; then, at the same time I can keep up with all of them, making good use of their content in new ways that helps the class as a whole, while also helping me do a better job as a teacher... all because of the power of RSS which sets the content free and lets it be shared!

So, really, this has been such a great semester for me — thanks to my fabulous students, thanks to all the great people in Connected Courses, thanks to the genius engineers at Inoreader... and also thanks to Aaron Swartz who, when he was thirteen years old, joined the group of people who brought us RSS to begin with. When he died, you could see headlines that referred to him (justifiably) as the "creator of RSS." If you do not know about Aaron Swartz, you can find out more at Wikipedia; the photo below shows him in 2008, and I've embedded a video below: The Internet's Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz. Be warned: you will cry. But you will feel both awe and gratitude, too. (The RSS part starts at 8 minutes in.)


  1. Speaking of love, I just love your experiments and sharing of them. That is a core attribute of a connected course, as opposed to the kind of tool used to make the course.

    And that is what I also love what you are doing with Inoreader; showing others a different approach to building these course spaces. I try to make it clear that the Wordpress / Feed Wordpress approach is but one way of doing this. Also out there are emerging options of the Known platform ( that Jim Groom and Tim Owens are trying out. And the P2PU resource I came across today is yet another approach (and a fantastic resource on communities and design)

    If it were my classes, my only reservation in what you are doing is the dependence on 3rd party sites. I do not think you need to "reclaim" everything, but their presence is a link that might disappear (think Posterous) or flicker on and off (and even when your sites are hosted, the servers can go down). Google+ is easy to use and does a lot for you, but lacks syndication outward.

    But you do have access to own domains at OU, why use Google Sites? (just curious, not a criticism).

    And when it comes down to it, as Simon shows, there are wonderful ways of connecting w/o predefined structure-

  2. Thanks for your comment, Alan! You have been teaching me stuff since back in Feed2JS days ten years ago it must be, and I'm more excited about this stuff than ever! And yes, ohhhh yes, I am very aware of how things come and go: Delicious RSS used to be the glue that held everything together for me, and I was totally derailed when that went under, but I learned a ton from having to adapt (tool Darwinism, ha ha).

    As for Google Sites and domains: domains at OU is a pretty uncomfortable subject with me. My students don't have access to it, and I was not even invited to participate; in fact, the online course program that I teach for (College of Arts & Sciences at my school) was apparently shut out of the process. Long story. I would love for domains to succeed at OU, but I am not optimistic: it is being implemented in a top-down way without an open culture to accompany it, and meanwhile the real investment (MILLIONS of dollars per year) is going into Janux, a totally closed MOOC platform that actually makes Coursera look good (scary, eh?). Just think what the Reclaim crew could do with millions of dollars a year! On Friday faculty just got a mass email inviting us to put their courses inside the totally locked-down in Janux... but we never got an email inviting us all to create domains of our own. They are calling it JanuxNext. These courses won't even be open enrollment for general public like the "signature" courses were: closed courses in a totally closed LMS. Money talks: so there are millions of reasons ($$$) to suspect that Janux is going to keep on going strong at my school. I am less optimistic for open courses, the one exception being some awesome OER work happening in our Library (repository, support for OER course content development, etc.).

    There are a few of my students who might be interested in paying for Reclaim space in the future after they graduate, keeping their domain alive... and if my school proves itself really serious about domains, I will think about that some more. But I've learned to be cautious at my school, and caution is definitely advisable here. My students' Google Sites almost all stay up for years afterwards, while I guess most of them would not keep on paying for a domain of their own, which would mean the sites would come down unless I got into the business of hosting them. But I feel better letting the students choose to leave up or take down!

    Syndicating Google Sites: one of my students this semester got totally into experimenting with his blog and he showed me how easy it would be to have students post when they create new Storybook content at Google Sites. And the students doing Portfolios are doing that in their blogs already, so that syndicates already. I'm optimistic about doing a better job with that next semester, esp. thinking about how to use the RSS-by-label feeds. Right now I have my students labeling just for navigation at the blogs, but I need to experiment with some RSS-by-label stuff next semester. I saw how well that can work from the way you let us sign up with label-specific feeds to the Connected Courses engine. :-)

  3. Wow, I had a different image of the project at OU. Blecch. Yucky.

    I was not suggesting necessarily that students need domains, I meant more for you and your course materials (which you can as an individual on for $25/year).

    I am fine with students using hosted sites like Blogger,, tumblr. It does not lock them in forever, especially with Wordpress because you can always import a blog from those sites into WP. It's less about the specific platform, IF it is one where you can get data out of it.

    Yes, Google Sites does have some RSS goodness backed in. Just wish Google+ would, but why would they?

    1. Yeah, the image is very much what it's all about at OU. Talk to faculty and students about the "digital initiative" and most of them have never heard of it or, if they have, it's by virtue of feeling excluded from the decision-making process (online instructors not consulted about online course initiative, history department not consulted about History Channel initiative, etc.).

      And yes, I totally need to move to Reclaim; I have three domains that I've played around with in the past, and I don't really use them except to host my widget scripts! But I need to consolidate and get them cleaned up. They are an unholy mess. It's on my list of things to do this summer! The hosting services I am using right now aren't bad or anything but I'm paying something like $75 and I honestly can't even keep straight where my domains are registered. I'm such a doofus when it comes to that... which is partly why hosted solutions have been so good for me. And I am really fascinated by WithKnown. That is something I am really intrigued to learn more about!

      I had my students backing up their Blogger and their Google Sites locally... not so much because they would need the backups (although, heck, you never know!), but mostly just to get them used to the idea of local backups and what it means to be using hosted space that you back up locally. Google Sites is such a pain that way: I don't know why they don't have a decent site export tool, but they don't (Blogger is fine). Argh. Sometimes I see sinister plots (like no RSS at Google+)... but then sometimes it seems like people just aren't THINKING about their users, like it slipped their minds or something. That's how it seems all the time at D2L: the software is so bad not on purpose, but just as a result of some never-ending accidental oversight...

  4. First the practical: check I set it up as my ccourses project and it is really growing on me. It looks like they will add a reader to it soon and easy to bring to RH as and when you move. It seems you are doing all you can to work with a tough administrative situation and you make your students aware of options and consequences. I was struck by your comment: imagine what the LMS money could buy in the open. I have been re-reading Wiley on how openess is about generosity and sharing and that In turn is what being an educator means. You are a reat example of all of the above and I am pleased to have met you and got to know you during ccourses.  Ultimately, as I heard Jim Groom say today, content is just the residue of our relationships. Yet we treat it as the end in itself and spend $$$$$$$ on closing it in. Humans. Go figure. See you over at my classroom Twitter :o)   

    1. Oh, Mariana, I am so excited that you are experimenting with WithKnown. Fantastic! My friend Ian is someone I am watching too: A Domain of WithKnown. And I love "content is the residue of our relationships"... beautiful! This whole semester has been so full of inspiring thoughts and new connections. Very happy! :-)


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