Feedly: Feed, Read, Lead

Feedly is a content aggregator that came into its own when Google cancelled Google Reader and Feedly stepped into the void. The user tells Feedly what to look for (content feeds) and Feedly provides it in one location. There are many such aggregation services on the internet, each with their own unique look, feel, and services.

At Feedly’s “Free” membership level, a user may establish up to three feeds and 100 sources within them. For $5.41 per month (billed annually), the software gets much more robust: unlimited feeds, sources, and increased features such as saving/sharing directly to some social media and organization programs (LinkedIn, Evernote, OneNote, etc.) It gets more expensive at the next tier, the “Teams” level. For $18.00 per user, per month, Feedly allows shared feeds, boards, incorporates Twitter feeds, and integrates with Slack and Microsoft Teams (ILD831 colleagues, I would love to hear how Slack and Microsoft Teams promote this within their respective platforms - is it obvious? Are they as enamored with Feedly as Feedly is with them?) At the team level, Feedly also promises an AI deduplication service, which I learned is simply the culling of repeat articles from a user’s feed.

Ultimately, I found Feedly incredibly easy to use. Within less than a minute, I had signed in with my Google Drive account (users can establish a standalone Feedly account or sign in with Google or Facebook) and established my first feed, which I simply titled “Education.” The interface is simple and intuitive. After establishing my education feed, I quickly located six sources recommended under the category of education provided by the service (New York Times - Education, The Atlantic - Education, etc.) and instantaneously had a fairly robust feed of education news content on my screen.

In education, it can become easy to get so caught up in the day-to-day management of a school or district that we (especially in front-line administration) can forget to take time to step back and take stock of big ideas, trends, and/or timely and useful information for our leadership colleagues and other educators. I can immediately see how an aggregator like Feedly could be useful to me. For example, I signed up to receive Education Weekly (EdWeek) updates in my e-mail inbox at work, follow education news via various news services on Twitter, and subscribe to a few print publications from the education field. Feedly puts almost all of those sources, plus other websites and blogs, in one place. I could see myself reading and sharing more items by using an aggregator, thus stimulating more professional conversation in my current role.

Potential downsides of Feedly or any content aggregation are usually borne out of the aggregation itself: clutter (aggregation does not equal curation), the need to schedule time to review the feed and analyze information (this might be a great job for future AI tools), and the inability at the free level to pull in other feeds, link easily with social media, or collaborate with others. Simple aggregation does not cloud collaboration make. If one isn’t careful, aggregation services can simply represent one more way we are data rich and information poor.

In terms of alignment with the first three chapters of Kevin Kelly’s The Inevitable, Feedly may be most closely linked with the concept of “flowing.” No sooner had I added feeds and sources than they popped up on my screen, meeting Kelly’s standard for immediacy, personalization, accessibility, and reaching the third stage of flowing: flowing and sharing. It is not clear to me, however, what Feedly is becoming (perhaps the cloud-based teamwork tier is more promising?) Feedly also appears to exist at a somewhat emergent level of cognifying, as “deduplication” services are surely just a nascent form of what we might expect artificial intelligence to contribute to our news feeds over the next decade or so.

Of the other Top Tools for Learning, the most intriguing and possibly useful tools for us educators to examine (we already use many of the top 15-20 on the list or reliable counterparts) would be some form of project management software, like Trello, or increased use of programs like Snagit/Camtasia to “flip” lessons, traditional staff meetings, professional development, and more. Although, sometimes it seems as if educational technology (EdTech) is used more to streamline our own professional responsibilities instead of improving student learning - something about which we need to be more aware and willing to discuss openly.

One of Feedly’s taglines is: “The insights you need to get the inside edge.” Right now, the software (particularly at the free level) strikes me more as interesting and timely information conveniently located in one place. For insights, I will have to dig a little deeper and be willing to take the extra step of sharing with colleagues. After all, in education, our business is not usually about gaining an edge, but about finding ways to inspire and build up people.