IT: Technology, Language, and Culture

News Aggregators, Teaching and Scholarship

There are a number of useful ways to incorporate news aggregators into teaching. There are lots of classes in English, Social Science, Communication Studies and Journalism departments that ask students to read newspapers and journals on and off the web and then write about both the content and the larger issues. News aggregators are a valuable research tool, and should be included in any discussion about how to use other online research tools like search engines and databases.

In the case of NewsIsFree in particular, news aggregators are especially good at providing fresh interesting, and timely content, in languages other than English. Students (or teachers) can use an aggregator to automatically fetch and display content that interests students, content that is current in the language they are studying. There are hundreds of sources in almost any language, ranging from periodicals to web blogs, that offer students an opportunity to read content written in a variety of styles. It’s a great way to get students to read in a language that they are struggling with, and to expose them to the language as it’s used by real people. Tie news reading/blog reading to blogging (using any number of blog tools) about what they’ve read, using the language they are studying, and you’ve got a fabulous combination, particularly since there’s a very good chance that students will read each other»s blogs, and comment on them.

I wish that academic scholarly journals used the web and RSS for publication so that scholars could subscribe to a feed containing the non-article material, the necrologie, table of contents, lists of forthcoming books, conference calendars, the things that have a “timeliness” value. It’s a much better way of keeping up to date than waiting for your university library to receive an expensive bound journal, catalog it, and then make it available for circulation. So far I’ve not found any humanities journals that have a “news” page with a subscribable feed.