Back to Basics With Email and RSS

Jean J. Sanders

Over the last few weeks I’ve fielded a lot of emails from readers who are wondering if they should stay on Twitter. Most of those emails have included requests for where to go next to keep up with ed tech. My answers have basically been, “I can’t tell you if you should quit Twitter” and “email and Feedly.” 

Whether or not you should stay on Twitter is a decision that you have to make for yourself. Some of my good friends have deleted or at least disabled their accounts. I don’t have plans to do the same, but I also haven’t been updating it or checking it nearly as much as I did five years ago let alone since the Elon Musk takeover. For me, the shine of social media dulled at least five years ago. Since then my favorite way to interact with people has been through email or phone calls or Zoom calls. That goes for professional interactions as well as personal interactions. 

As for “keeping up” I subscribe to a few weekly newsletters that I always read. Those include the TCEA newsletter, Lee LeFever’s newsletter, and Chris Brogan’s newsletter. And I have a few PR contacts who I trust to only send me worthwhile press releases (the rest go straight to the trash bin). I’m also an avid listener of the Planet Money podcasts from NPR. 

Feedly is the RSS reader that I’ve been using since the demise of Google Reader. If you’re not sure what an RSS reader is, it’s basically a way to read updates from your favorite websites without having to visit them directly. A better explanation is provided by Lee LeFever in his video RSS in Plain English.

Feedly makes it easy to subscribe to the websites that you like and read their updates all in one place. With the exception of the few newsletters that I mentioned above, I prefer to use Feedly to follow my favorite websites because I can do it on my own pace without feeling like my inbox is being invaded. If you want to give Feedly a try, watch this video to learn how to get started.

What about TikTok, Instagram, Mastodon, Facebook, LinkedIn, flavor-of-the-day?

My Facebook page was never a priority for me even when my posts there were getting 100,000+ daily organic interactions. That was before Facebook started suppressing page content that was paid advertising. The likes were just a by-product of sharing my blog posts. That said, I still share my blog posts there just in case someone is actually trying to follow my page despite the obstacles that Facebook puts in place.

The mess that is the Facebook feed algorithm is representative of the greater challenge of trying to find and follow meaningful information on any social media platform. All of the platforms reward short, attention-grabbing content regardless of whether or not there is any substance to it. It’s fine for entertainment (or killing time in line at a government office like the DMV), but it’s not where I’m going for substance. When I want substance I’ll turn to long-form content found in Feedly, in email newsletters, and increasingly I get lost in rabbit holes on Google Scholar.

To be transparent, I haven’t yet given Mastodon a good, fair try. That’s probably the result of two things. First, I haven’t made the time. Second, I still feel burned by some of the old Twitter education “chats” that turned from pleasant conversations to competitions of people trying to make themselves seem insightful and or be the first to use a new hashtag. It has been about ten years since I engaged in one of those “chats.” If you find value in them, great! If I’m completely wrong about Mastodon becoming Twitter education chats 2.0, please email me and tell me why I’m wrong.

Get Off My Lawn!

I went back and forth on whether or not I should publish this post because I fear that it might come across as “old man yelling at kids on his lawn.” That was not my intention. My intention was to provide some ideas for other ways besides social media to stay engaged in informal professional learning. And if you want to subscribe to my weekly newsletter, you can do so here

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