Monday, March 12, 2007
Ceci n'est pas une pipe
It seems that even more these days i'm swamped by information that is of interest to me (RSS feeds, blogs, etc) or that i'm obliged to read (a.k.a., email.) It's getting pretty critical for those of us who spend a lot of time in here to be able to sort through this stuff, to slow this flash flood of a data flow down a bit and try to just irrigate the bits of our brains that we're currently into cultivating. To this end I spent a few hours over the weekend looking into Yahoo Pipes which is a really cool idea and one that I suspect will be a dominant geek meme next year as others jump into this space as well (there's already a few). Basically Pipes is a relatively simple GUI for creating aggregate RSS feeds; it's a bit more dynamic than that, there's some neat stuff you can do besides just combine feeds like doing content analysis on a feed for dominant words, or allow user input into a hosted Pipe to create searches across focused data sources.
So why would you need this? Well I suspect that a huge part of the literacy of networked learning will be about acquiring the skills on just how to manage your personal learning by being able to alternate between broad and narrow approaches to information. Search is generally the broadest approach but with the sheer amount of information currently available even the best boolean searches are often thwarted. Which is why establishing narrow, focused approaches to information acquisition through network protocols like RSS, Atom and then creating specific content interactions with applications like Pipes will be crucial for learners as they become more specialized in their subjects and pursuits. The interaction with content and data that the learner engages in will be in creating connections between content and data sources which for a lot of people equates to what learning is all about anyways.
These skills are not easy to explain (I've helped create two tutorials on Boolean in my life and it always confuses students) - i'm still having a hellishly hard time explaining what RSS it to most people and why it's so valuable let alone something like Pipes, but I think that it's time we start developing some basic resources on how to do these things: how to subscribe to a feed, how to tag resources in social bookmarking systems then subscribe to the feed of this tag, etc. We'll need to make all this as simple as, well... looking at a picture of a pipe.
I've got it in the pipe to do so on WikiEducator and Wikiversity as part of the Networked Learning resources ... it's just that with all this stuff to read I get so little time these days :-)