To introduce you to RSS and you can use it to subscribe to the latest content on the web -- for free!

Learning outcomes

By the end of this workshop, you should be able to
  1. Find RSS or XML feeds on the web
  2. Subscribe to RSS feeds using a feedreader
  3. I won't ask you to 'describe what RSS is' because that is just way too hard, even for us who are familiar with it!


  1. What is a RSS?
  2. Educational focus
  3. Ideas for practice
  4. Subscribing to a website
  5. Sign up for a feedreader
  6. Add feeds to your feedreader
  7. Reflection
  8. Evaluation
  9. Useful links

1. What is RSS?

Visit the RSS page on the Web 2.0 survival guide

  • RSS is a way of distributing and receiving updates to websites or webpages across the internet.
  • RSS lets you receive the latest updates to a website without your having to visit that website.
  • Instead, the update comes direct to you.
  • Sometimes, you will also see 'XML.' Like RSS, XML is just an online file format. It does the same job as RSS, so you can think of them as pretty much the same thing.
  • RSS or XML is read by special 'feed readers', a piece of software that you use to collect the updates.
  • Feed readers let you subscribe to content on the web so that it comes directly to you in the one place; in other words, you don’t need to visit your favourite websites every day to check to see if they’ve been updated — instead, the updates come straight to your feed reader, all in the one spot. RSS is simply the technology that lets you do this.
  • It’s like subscribing to a magazine: the magazine comes straight to your letterbox (your feed reader), and it is delivered by your postie (RSS).
  • A feed reader is a single website that you set up that becomes the home for all the other websites you have subscribed to.
  • You can subscribe to news, blogs, even other people’s bookmarks, tags, or photos.
  • You can tell if a website has RSS or XML available because there is usually a little orange button somewhere that indicates that you can subscribe to the site. external image rss-button.pngThis tells you that you can 'subscribe' to the website using RSS.
  • To add a feed, look for the ‘add content’, ‘add subscription,’ or ‘add feed’ area.
  • You can manage how much text per feed is displayed, how many updates appear on the page, and other things.
  • You should also be able to export or backup your feeds in OPML format. This file format can be imported into other feed readers.

2. Educational focus

  • Analysis and synthesis
  • Information seeking, searching and consolidation
  • Communication and knowledge sharing
  • Knowledge building

3. Ideas for practice

  • Ask students to put together a collection of feeds related to the course. Ask them to justify their choices based on relevance, usefulness, currency, quality of the resource, etc.
  • Ask students to evaluate each other’s feeds and place comments on a group blog.
  • Publish your feeds to your students. Ask them to select three feeds that they consider the most significant, relevant or important, etc. to the course themes and to explain how they link to what they are learning.
  • Get students to create their own Netvibes or Pageflakes homepage. Get them to link in an RSS feed from their photo sharing account, their blog, their bookmarks, slideshows or any other spaces they might have on the web.

4. Subscribing to a website

  • Set up an account with a feed reading service, such as Google Reader or Netvibes.
  • Visit the site you want to subscribe to (e.g., ABC world news) and get its RSS or XML feed. You can find the feed by looking for the orange RSS icon or text that says ‘RSS’ or 'XML.' If you are using the FireFox browser, the little RSS icon will appear in the address bar, indicating that this webpage has an RSS feed. Often, the feed will look like a funny bunch of code or like a really plain web page.
  • Once you have found the feed, copy the address and past it into your feed reader’s ’subscribe to feed’ or ‘add a feed’ area.
  • Tech-bites.com has an excellent article on Google Reader

5. Sign up for a feedreader

a. In pairs, each choose a feedreader.
Person A should choose Google Reader
Person B should choose Netvibes
b. Next, sign up for an account with your reader service. If you already have a Google account,
then you can access Google Reader using your Gmail address.

Some important points
  • If you are not over 13 years of age, you may be refused access to the service.
  • Do not use a template or a wizard to create pages on your wiki -- it just gets ugly.
  • You may change your password and your email address via the profile area.
  • You can manage your subscriptions and automatic email notifications via the 'profile' and 'subscriptions' areas of your reader.

ESSENTIAL! Write down or remember these things:*
  1. Your username
  2. Your web address/URL
  3. Your password
  4. The email address you used to create this account

*You will need your username and password to sign in to your wiki in the future.

You will not be able to change your username or web address later; however, you will be able to change your password and email address.

6. Add feeds to your feedreader

Start adding feeds (or 'content') to your feedreader. To do this, you will first need to find some websites
that you can subscribe to. Remember that you are looking for an orange button or similar to know that
you can subscribe.
  1. Visit the ABC website and navigate down the right-hand side and click on 'RSS/XML Feeds.'
  2. Find a feed that interests you (e.g., At The Movies, Politics News, or Cricket).
  3. Click on the feed address. For example, if you want the Cricket Feed, then click on the address that reads http://www.abc.net.au/news/tag/cricket/rss.xml.
  4. Copy the address.
  5. Paste the address into your feedreader (under either 'add content' or 'subscribe' or something similar).
  6. Watch as your feedreader gathers all the latest content from the website you have just subscribed to!

7. Reflection

What do you think or know now? What is still confusing? What do you need to follow up on?

8. Evaluation

Helpful or not? Let us know your thoughts.

9. Useful links

Tech-bites.com article on Google Reader
Web 2.0 survival guide
RSS basics