What are Web Aggregation Tools?

Aggregation is the process of transparently gathering together distributed pieces of online content based on an interest in the topic(s), the author(s), or other shared characteristics. RSS readers are one way to aggregate data, but with the increase in personal publishing, new tools for aggregation are emerging. Using these tools, readers can easily track a distributed conversation that takes place across blogs, Twitter, and other publishing platforms, as well as pull in relevant resources from news feeds and other sources. Some educators and students are seeking alternatives to course management systems, preferring to open their discussions and make use of a variety of tools instead. Aggregation can reunite course discussions that once took place within CMS forums, even if they are scattered among different platforms and tools. Aggregation can allow a class to visualize its conversations in new ways. Information is available when and where the reader wishes, in almost any desired format.

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(1) How might this technology be relevant to the educational sector you know best?

  • Web aggregation tools can both feed and represent learning. Rather than being restricted to what's in the textbook or in a list of course readings kept behind the firewalled course management system, students and instructors can explore the wealth of information available online. Further, they can make this exploration available to others, demonstrating what they have discovered. Examples include Michael Wesch's use of NetVibes and student-compiled bibliographies, the distributed learning of Looking for Whitman, the crowdsourced vision of what matters right now in digital humanities provided by Digital Humanities Now, and the aggregated view of a university community through UMW Blogs. There has been a lot of excitement for tools that help people make sense of streams of information, such as Flipboard on the iPad. - lisaspiro lisaspiro
  • I would second Lisa's view on this topic. I would also like to add that we have a very successful example of the use of the Netvibes tool in Gardner Campbell's New Media Faculty Seminar of which we are a participant. We are getting some really nice network effects out of being able to aggregate Twitter, Blogs (via RSS), and headlines curated by Gardner (also via RSS). This technology should get easier to use. - tom.haymes tom.haymes Oct 4, 2010

(2) What themes are missing from the above description that you think are important?

  • Perhaps mention edu-punk here, emphasizing that some are trying to break free from the limitations of the course management system and make learning more transparent, communal, and DIY. I might tie web aggregation tools to knowledge curation, which I would define as a key 21st century literacy, since it encompasses gathering, evaluating and organizing information. (Indeed, many foundational ideas behind the web--Bush's Memex, Tim Berners-Lee's vision of the web, etc--seem to focus on curating and communicating knowledge.) I might also mention the social nature of knowledge aggregation, as communities share information through Twitter, social bookmarking, etc. - lisaspiro lisaspiro
  • I would incorporate this into the entry on Personal Learning Environments (or vice versa) and talk about how this is impacting the shape of LMS's such as Moodle. - tom.haymes tom.haymes Oct 4, 2010 I agree with Tom - dolors.reig dolors.reig Oct 5, 2010 Agreed--web aggregation is a fundamental part of PLE creation. - gardnercampbell gardnercampbell Oct 18, 2010

(3) What do you see as the potential impact of this technology on teaching, learning, or creative expression?

  • One of the major challenges that we face is navigating, filtering and making sense of a deluge of information. No matter what profession students enter, they will likely be called upon to find, evaluate and share information, so they need to develop these skills in college. By aggregating and curating content, we bring together key information and share it with a community. - lisaspiro lisaspiro
  • Information management is a key tool that we need to teach our students in addition to using it as a method for leveraging the educational value of our own (and others') content. Web aggregation represents a real opportunity here and the technologies which support it are gradually reaching level of maturity that will allow average users to create and participate in this kind of work. - tom.haymes tom.haymes Oct 4, 2010

(4) Do you have or know of a project working in this area?

  • Compartim project (in the Justice Department of Generalitat of Catalonia) has a prototype of Netvibes used by Criminologists as a way to keep aware of the flow of information and knowledge that would be useful in the workplace. It was presented to the PLE conference 2010 in Barcelona and also in Online Educa BerlĂ­n 2009 (link to the paper) - dolors.reig dolors.reig Oct 5, 2010
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