Functioning in a state of overload

The last few days I’ve spent some time just reacquainting myself with what is happening on the different social networks that I follow, adding some comments and thinking about what is being discussed. One conversation that caught my attention was at the Fireside Conversation ning where Connie Weber shared an article about reading. This article discusses that, with the overload of information, there is less deep reading going on and more of the skimming and scanning going on. People have less time for indepth reading as they try to keep up with the amount of information that is piling up.

Now, I can relate with what this article says as I found it to be very intimidating not only trying to keep up with the amound of information that was coming my way but also trying to keep up with the rate of change that was taking place with the tools that were being used. I was trying to read and add information to my RSS, get up to date with new tools that were entering the stream seemingly on the hour plus teach and be an administrator, coach and then have some sort of family life. Safe to say I was overwhelmed and beginning to wonder if all the hype was worth the added stress. And, if I was having trouble,  can you image what other educators who weren’t using technology would feel like if this were thrust upon them, even a bit at a time. With the number different things that are coming at educators from all sides, an overload of information is not what they need. So how does one manage in this time of information overload and do more than just skimming and scanning or drown in the tsanumi?

FOCUS

The first thing that I’ve learned is that you need to have a focus for what you are doing. Whether it’s using a new tool or looking for ideas for classroom use, you need to focus what you are doing. There are so many different tools that to try to keep up with all of them means that you spend most of your time just finding and accessing them. One way to avoid this is to find some people who are using different tools and follow what they do. I like Read/Write Web site, Jane’s page and go2web20. These sites help me to keep up without having to search and try things all by myself.

PLN

I also suggest that you develop your Personal Learning Network to include different people who are using different tools in their work. People like Stephen Downes, Scott McLeod, Dave Cormier, Alec CourosaGlenn MosesDean Shareski, Kim Cofino,  Steve Dembo, David Truss, Alan Levine , mctoonish and Injenuity. These are some of the people who I look to when it comes to new tools and using these tools in an educational setting. Of course there are many more people who I follow and who are using tools in exciting and innovative ways but it would take way too long to list all of them. For a better idea, check out my twitter.

READ

This is where you need to sift carefully and select with care. In this time when everyone is an author, one must be selective about what one selects. I try to keep my options open by having a number of peopole in my RSS feed who offer ideas and suggestions about what to read. Vicki Davis, Sharon Peters and Lisa Parisi are some of the people whom I turn to when looking for reading ideas. I have become very selective in what I read. For instance, I am taking a class on reading strategies so I am now looking for information the has that focus. I also subscribe to Educational Leadership and, if their monthly focus is geared toward something that would be of use for me in my work, I take time to read through the artciles and look at some of the information in the bibliographies. I also make sure that I spend some time reading for recreation – fantasy fiction is my escape.

PODCASTS

Podcasts are another great way to get information. I use the iTunes library to supplement my learning. I would suggest that you also look at Wes Fryer, edtechtalk and WoW20 for great information on learning and the use of technology in education.

There is definitely an informational tsunami taking place. As educators, it is important that we develop our networks. By using these different ideas to narrow the selections that come our way, one can spend more time going into more depth with our reading. However, it is important to realize that we also need to spend time away from the grid in order to remain focused on areas that interest us. By focusing on specific ideas and using other people as sources for our learning, we don’t have to do all the work ourselves. No one can keep up with everything and to try just divides our attention. Educators working in classrooms do not have the time to sift and sort and do not have time to search through the plethora of information that bombards them. By being selective, one can begin to manage the information instead of it being so overwhelming and daunting.

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10 responses

  1. … am also concerned with the “echo” factor … though not too successful & quite difficult do tend to subscribe to any site with radically different views (especially in education) … always looking for the surprise factor … also choose a book to read every week for “deep” reading … this week The Shock Doctrine – Naomi Klein …

  2. The “echo” factor is something which we need to keep in mind. You’re right about looking for those who speak from a different perspective and reading them so that we don’t get lost in our own echo. However, as an administrator, I find that working with the teachers in the building, observing them, discussing different things with them keeps me grounded. By visiting classrooms and being with students on a daily basis I hope I have an idea of what the pressures are for them and the teachers. It’s much larger than the narrow scope of learning and technology. Much, much larger!
    My book this week, The Secret Things of God – Dr. Henry Cloud coupled with my ongoing reading of Terry Goodkind – Sword of Truth novels – Soul of the Fire.

  3. I find that a book from audible.com a week while I’m cleaning house also keeps me fresh and excited! I think these are great tips for beginners and “experts” 😉 alike. Keeping focus is a struggle for us all.

    Great blog post.

  4. […] says Kelly Christopherson (KC) in a wonderful post about prioritizing the overwhelming “informational tsunami” for educators on […]

  5. A very insightful post Kelly,
    My Friends Shared Items on Google Reader keeps my reading focused. I find that if someone decides an item in their reader is worth sharing and that person makes the conscious effort to share it, then it is almost always a valuable read. (My Uber-Feed)

    Something else to consider is that what we as edubloggers ‘entrenched’ in this world of RSS and Twitter and podcasts and… consider as ‘overload’ is beyond overwhelming to a newbie. Recently I have been plugging two tools, wikis and delicous (and depending on the need sometimes blogs)… that ‘s it!

    I think the key to promoting these things is to show the value and ‘keep it small’… the few times I have done that well, I have found the teacher will take it farther than expected, but if you add ‘the next tool’ or ‘the next idea’ or ‘the next step’ too fast, then overload kicks in and the teacher opts out.

    I’ve recently moved to a school with a perspective around technology of ‘that would be great for kids’… my job now is to slow down, and take your advice: Focus, and look to my PLN for advice, direction, and inspiration.

  6. This is interesting. So many people are writing this week about overload…Deep reading is definitelly a something that seems to be getting harder and harder to achieve. And I wonder about other less “useful” activites, such as looking at the moon (it’s full moon here in Brazil…), going to the beach, watching a good comedy,having fun with our kids, etc. I think I’m getting old…

    Anamaria

  7. I commented on Rob Wall’s blog today and thought it connected with your post so I’ll just do a copy and paste job here:

    I’ve been thinking about and using a quote for Marshall McLuhan: “Information Overload leads to Pattern Recognition” (paraphrased and unsourceable but I think it’s McLuhan)…..Any way, I think it’s important. Finding patterns and then digging deeper into specific, personalized information.

    I’ll end with another McLuhan quote. This one from a 1961 Playboy interview:
    “Another basic problem is that in our schools there is simply too much to learn by the traditional analytic methods; this is an age of information overload. The only way to make the schools other than prisons without bars is to start fresh with new techniques and values.”

  8. Overload is the first word that comes to mind when I think of my new online world. As a teacher relatively new to the 2.0 world, it’s exhausting trying to keep up. I’ve started backing off bit by bit trying to focus on 2 specific tools for my classroom right now – blogs and wikis, and just do research on the others for now. I personally use many more, but trying to introduce them to my students is just too much in my classroom situation. I have found my PLN on twitter to be extremely useful in weeding out the good stuff and suggesting meaningful reading.

  9. Anamaria – we really need to find a balance in our lives. We are in a time when there is so many things that are vying for our time and decide where we put our time. Watching the moon, being with our family, reading the comics – they all have a place and for the first time, we are need to look at our time allocation.

    Vicki – I am just starting to use the ebooks. They are just a great thing. Again, a new way to do old things. I use them when I’m running and working out. Great multi-tasking tool.

    Dave – you’re right. We have to consider the newbies and how this affects them. You’re right about choosing a few tools and then helping others.

    Dean – Sitting in your session and just thinking about your comment. 1961 – and how have we changed? Practically zero. Why is that? What are we doing wrong? Are we? How do we change things? I love your quotes – especially the one from penthouse. See, it does have good articles!

  10. FOCUS what a great word. Thanks for the reminder. On days when I practice this I get more done and feel less scattered. On days when I don’g (like today) I have started 10 things and finished 15 and when it is time to leave school I discover all of the windows open from things that I have not completed.

    One thing I am doing is that I am reading blogs every morning for 15 minutes. If a blog leads me to something related to my work it might go on longer, but that discipline is helping me to keep reading rather than avoiding my bloglines.

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