RSS, Information and Education

The Newspaper is all but dead.  The responsibility of reading just one major metropolitan newspaper is long over.  Instead, the internet is teeming with publishers of both text and multimedia.  The immediate future is syndication over the internet, with individuals seeking out and customizing their own multimedia news sources, sharing them with friends and family, and publishing them over the internet.  Educators need to be actively involved in coaching young people to seek good information, keep themselves informed, and share and publish information online as a form of dialog between them, their friends, and the rest of society.

Netvibes, Pageflakes, and Google Reader are competing neck and neck to offer a top browser-based product that performs the best at RSS (Really Simple Syndication, an alternate form of viewing the material that has tags that other programs can understand and import) aggregation, organization, sharing, and publication.   They are the tools of choice for blog readers – the task of a blog reader is to stay abreast of enormous numbers of blogs.  It’s a job that’s as much filtering out poor sources, choosing relevant articles, and pushing good articles on others as it is reading.  It’s no relaxed reading the paper.

Oddly enough, the death of newspapers was part suicide.  They became less able to create new and original content through good (expensive) journalism by treating that practice as what stood between them and maximum profits.  Meanwhile, they got more adept and rehashing whatever came through the wire.  Now, there’s an ocean of news out there but not a drop to drink save a few bastions of integrity.

Enter blogosphere.

Fortunately, a lot of bloggers are in the thick of industries or locations newsworthy, and they put out content for free as a mode of self-expression or community building.  Watchdog organizations and activists can now publish instantaneously and at little cost.  In a way, we’re just getting rid of the middle man.

Unfortunately, the blogosphere is not full of skilled writers trained in the scruples of effective and moral journalism.  That middle man, the journalist, was the filter.  People trusted that the local paper of any decent sized town would inform them of all relevant information at the local, state, national, and perhaps even global level.  The responsibility was to read one paper.   Filtering done for you.

Now that every day citizens in their jobs and their locations and their activities are becoming both the content producers and the content filters, there’s more responsibility for intelligent information processing than ever.  Educators have to take more responsibility for teaching the student ways to cope with infinite information, ways to discern the quality of information, and ways to interpret and use that information.

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