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?
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.
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 Courosa, Glenn Moses, Dean 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.
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 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.