RSS Feeds Assignment: How Using These Tools Can Enhance Educational Research and Put you in Touch with Digital Innovations in Comics

The Google Reader allows you to keep track of RSS feeds of interest to you, whether they concern themselves with digital education or digital comics.

I became acquainted with RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feeds because of my work with online publishing outlets. At that time, it was suggested to me as a writer for these sites to use them to develop an online readership base. The editors of the sites not only actively encouraged to find places that we could place our columns’ RSS feeders, but also to use social media to gain subscribers and people who would promote the feed. However, because of this assignment I am looking at the RSS feed from the other side of the table so to speak.

Classroom Uses for the RSS Feed

Using RSS feeds in the classroom and for education in general presents several advantages. The first advantage is that it has the ability to bring information to directly to you, specific to your research preferences and/ or your work/ teaching interests. You don’t have to perform a Google or Bing search each time you want to find articles of interest. Rather, you just find a few RSS feeds that are relevant to your interest and save them in your RSS reader folder.

The second factor related to using RSS as a tool in education is that subscribing to RSS feeds can help save you a tremendous amount of time and allow you to filter the results by your specific criteria—for example, for an education RSS, you may want to choose only scholarly sources. This helps you automatically weed out research sources that wouldn’t be appropriate for a college level assignment such as user-generated content sites such as Wikipedia.

Additionally, this type of search tool puts you in touch with resources on the web that you might never see otherwise because of search engine filtering. What I mean by this is that when most people search Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc., they will usually only look at the results for about the first five pages before they give up on a search term, according to Infinity Technologies. In context this means that if you’re the teacher or the student looking for good resources for your classroom, for a report or for work, you may miss some of the best information resources simply because the website or blog owner doesn’t understand about keyword optimization, which will put their pages beyond the first five. Subscribing to an RSS feed will help you see more of these pages that don’t make it to the first five pages of Google, because you’re searching by different criteria.

Long-Term Research Ideas

The other advantage that I can see to the RSS feed as it specifically relates to using it in education is that it allows you to follow a subject of interest over a long period of time. For example, one of the areas of research that I hope to delve into more deeply is using graphic novels–both the hard-bound and online kind–in the classroom and in education, and to add even more specifics to the search, I may want to follow what people are saying about something like the New 52 at DC Comics. This is not only a reboot of the most of the major characters like Batman and the Flash and their storylines, but also a change in the comics’ distribution. With the release of the New 52, digital versions of the comics will “hit the stands” on the same day as the hard-back versions. I could create a research project about this where I examine how technology has affected the distribution of comics.

To this end, I could start following some RSS feeds that give me ideas for research projects that I could do related to this theme. The RSS feeds would put the information about the reboot right at my finger tips everyday in a place that I could bookmark on my desktop and come back to each day. Additionally, I may find out through the course of my research that digital tools like iPads, Android phones, or tablet readers like Kindle are going to play a big part in the distribution of comics in general, so for a more well-rounded report, I would subscribe to a few RSS feeds that deal with digital tools in publishing or comics, mobile apps for comics and graphic novels, or other general topics that would help support my research.

Aligning with the AECT Standards

An assignment like this would adhere to several of the AECT standards. The use of the RSS feeder fall under the 4.4 AECT standard of information management. It allows for the planning, monitoring, and controlling the storage, transfer, or processing of information in order to provide resources for learning. The RSS feeder allows you to manage the information by organizing it logically into folders. It also helps you share the information, because you can share the link to your Google Reader page as we are doing for the RSS for education assignment and with the Teaching Resources Bundle that we’ve created.

Here is the link to my Teaching Resources Bundle. (Click on the red hyperlink that says “Teaching Resources Bundle” to be taken there.)

Finally, by adding graphic novels and phones/ tablets to this example, this type of assignment could also fall under AECT standard 2.1 which is defined as print technologies that provide “ways to produce or deliver materials, such as books and static visual materials, primarily through mechanical or photographic printing processes.”

Zotero Library Assignment

Zotero is an online resource management tool that allows you to keep all of your research and the citations for it in one place.

Our Zotero/ Library assignment for EDTECH 501 was intended to give us a foundation in using online research tools. Fortunately for me, I already knew how to use the interface for the BSU Library, because we did extensive research during Senior Seminar in German. Because most of my research involved journal articles and/ or foreign-language sources, I got quite comfortable using the online library tools. It was only much later that I realized that the only time I stepped into the library was when I went in to pick up a book that I had ordered from inter-library loan, and these usually came from Europe.

Using Zotero to Organize Your Research

Zotero I was not familiar with before this assignment, although right away I thought about how useful it would have been for Senior Seminar given the amount of research that I had to cite for my senior project and the number of resources I wound up using. Because Zotero can format a bibliography in just about every citation style, it would have saved me so much time and allowed me to keep all of the resources together in once place, include the notes that I had with these resources, and give me the ability to do keyword searches—something that I’ve grown quite accustomed to and quite spoiled by at times.

Although we used MLA in seminar, Zotero’s interface allows you to switch between different citation styles. In general, any kind of research project that I would have that involved heavy-duty citations that I have to keep track of would be a candidate for using this tool to keep your research organized. While I’m speaking about it in the context of the classroom, you could use it for large projects like writing books, which require you to keep pages and pages of citations depending upon the book you’re writing.

Using Google Scholar and Other Online Research Tools

Additionally, this assignment required us to become familiar with Google Scholar in addition to the BSU Library (Albertson’s Library). I was also familiar with Google Scholar because of some research I did in Bob Rudd’s class, Mass Communication and Democracy. I wasn’t familiar with these tools then, and I had talked to Bob about it. He came into class one day and showed us where to find it. I became further acquainted with what Google has to offer because of my work online as a writer. Google has quite a few tools that can help you organize your work.

In any event, Google Scholar allows you to search for a topic, but to only pull up scholarly resources. It’s an excellent tool for when you’re doing online research, because you don’t have to weed through what might be substandard research sources. This saves you time as well as giving you access to some of the best articles that pertain to your areas of interest. And like its regular search function, it allows you to create alerts for your areas of interest, which brings these topics to your email box daily.

Like the RSS Feeds Assignment, this particular tool falls under the AECT Standard 4.4. The standard allows for information management, and includes “planning, monitoring, and controlling the storage, transfer, or processing of information in order to provide resources for learning.”

Graphic Novels in the Classroom

Dr. Kemp suggested that we begin using this tool to collect research information for our areas of interest. Right now, using graphic novels—both digital and hardback—in the classroom is a strong interest of mine. To start my search, I first started looking for scholarly articles and publications that talked about using comics and graphic novels in the classroom. I allowed for both digital and hardback books, because I felt that it would not only give me a broad understanding of the subject, but also I found out that graphic novels can be used to help develop visual and media literacy. Both of these subjects will figure strongly into my EDTECH studies, so I included them. To round out my research, I also included resources dealing with ebooks and electronic publishing as well as mobile apps, because much of publishing is moving in that direction.

Once I got my resources gathered into a folder on Zotero, I copied the information onto my clipboard, having set my citation preference for APA, which is what I’ll use in EDTECH from here on out for research purposes. For my classroom citation, I was to include only five resources. However, I gathered more than that, because I’m interested in the subject.

The start of my research bibliography is below. Unfortunately, WP doesn’t seem to like the hanging indents common in research citations, so those are missing.


Adams, J. (1999). Of Mice and Manga: Comics and Graphic Novels in Art Education. Journal of Art & Design Education, 18(1), 69–75.

Barron, D. D. (1991). Zap! Pow! Wham!: Comics, Graphic Novels, and Education. School Library Media Activities Monthly, 8(3), 48–50.

Boone, R., & Higgins, K. (2003). Reading, Writing, and Publishing Digital Text. Remedial and Special Education, 24(3), 132–40.

Bucher, K. T., & Manning, M. L. (2004). Bringing Graphic Novels into a School’s Curriculum. The Clearing House: A Journal of Educational Strategies, Issues and Ideas, 78(2), 67–72.

Burn, A., & Reed, K. (1999). Digi-teens: Media Literacies and Digital Technologies in the Secondary Classroom. English in Education, 33(3), 5–20. doi:10.1111/j.1754-8845.1999.tb00720.x

Connors, S. P. (2012). Toward a Shared Vocabulary for Visual Analysis: An Analytic Toolkit for Deconstructing the Visual Design of Graphic Novels. Journal of Visual Literacy, 31(1), 71–92.

Goldsmith, F. (2009). The Readers’ Advisory Guide to Graphic Novels. Amer Library Assn Editions.

Gorman, M. (2002). What Teens Want: Thirty Graphic Novels You Can’t Live Without. School Library Journal, 48(8), 42–47.

Green, M. J., & Myers, K. R. (2010). Graphic medicine: use of comics in medical education and patient care. BMJ, 340(mar03 2), c863–c863. doi:10.1136/bmj.c863

Karp, J., & Kress, R. (2011). Graphic Novels in Your School Library. Chicago: ALA Editions.

Laquintano, T. (2010). Sustained Authorship: Digital Writing, Self-Publishing, and the Ebook. Written Communication, 27(4), 469–493.

Monnin, K. (2010). Teaching Media Literacy with Graphic Novels. New Horizons in Education, 58(3), 78–84.