Thursday, February 19, 2009

Global Awareness and RSS

RSS. At first glance, most people recognize this as an efficient method for channeling information directly to the consumer. But, is that all there is?
Creating RSS feeds for students is not brand new either. For a project, researchers can not only get feeds to news sources, but can create “custom” feeds as well. Let’s say two students are researching Global Warming and decide to get a news feed from a national source. Miguel gets his from Fox, Ashley, from CNN. Needless to say, these two students are going to receive considerably different information on the topic.

The problem? The information is coming from a single source. Solution: Create a custom RSS feed through Google. Here’s how it’s done: After a typical search (hopefully, using advance search features), click the News link on the top left. Then click the sort by date link. This will show the most recent news hits on the “news” web. From here, click the RSS link on the bottom left, and copy the new URL in your Google Reader. You now have a custom feed on the topic from a variety of sources.

But there’s one problem.

Chances are, these news sources, although varied, will reflect a very “American” view of the situation. Many forward thinkers have stressed the need to create “global citizens,” and a sense of empathy and awareness of cultures, beliefs, and attitudes world wide. Unfortunately, history tells us that Americans have an especially egocentric view of the world. One way to increase understanding is to add another step to the creation of the custom feed by including a “Country Code” to the search. To do this, add to your search words “site:” followed by the two-letter country code. This way, you will get returns ONLY from news sources in that country (Just one of many advanced search features on Google).

Imagine the possibilities.

Today I did staff development on RSS, and when I mentioned this technique, the light bulbs went off. Imagine reading the news on topics from the other side. Here are a few ideas for “localizing” searches:

“Nuclear” from the perspective of North Korea

“Satellite” from Iran’s point of view (I did this, actually…very eye-opening)

“The Gaza Strip” Doing not one but two separate feeds and comparing. You can guess the countries.

Now, what can students do with this information? At very least, some ignorance will be snuffed.

But think of the discussions:

“What would cause them to believe this?”

“What does this information suggest about the culture?”

“What is their opinion of our country?”

“How much can we trust their news sources?”

And, therefore, how much can we trust ours?

Hopefully, all of these questions can lead to some reflection

and maybe, some empathy, tolerance, and compassion.

Image By Flickr Contributor poederbach