Monday, August 5, 2013

Information Overload and How to Cope

Last night I spent an hour tweeting with government teachers from around the country (world?). As Twitter teacher discussions  often are, it was fast paced, stimulating, and tiring! Twitter is to professional development what a high def cable tv is to the old rabbit eared models. And to think, if I had not become active on Twitter this year, I would have likely gone the whole summer not talking to a single teacher. Those days are over.

In fact, the days of me yearning to talk teaching with a variety of other teachers are over. I can now do that with ease. As I mentioned during last night's discussion, there are taboos, unwritten rules, against being too chatty during the school day. Most teachers, including myself, are often busy grading and prepping for the next day to be genuinely open to impromptu reflective conversations about our craft.

To address this, principals will often mandate monthly department meetings, where some time is spent with colleagues talking about what we teach (curriculum), how we assess (formal and informal tests), and, occasionally, how we teach (methods). The results of these planned curricular meetings are often concrete by design; a test is made or an exam might be reviewed and revised. During these planned meetings, open ended Socratic style reflection and dialogue about the nature of teaching and learning is often seen as inefficient and, in my experience, discouraged.       

Anyway, back to my summer work. This summer I have read dozens of journal articles about education, with a particular focus on history teaching, student inquiry, and the use of primary sources in the classroom. While reading, instead of writing notes in a copybook for my eyes only, I tweeted about them. And teachers responded.

At first, responses were occasional. In a short time, however, the responses I received and the connections I made increased exponentially. Indeed, this summer I learned how to use technology, especially Twitter, to create a virtual graduate school, a place I can go when I am interested in growing as a teacher and a learner. Twitter is a place I can go to ponder and reflect, where the only taboo is using too many characters! 

Today, we are lucky to have such easy access to information and to each other. Having virtually unlimited access to so many resources is intellectually intoxicating and, at times, mind numbing.  

I have come to realize that in order for me to truly benefit from these resources, I must consciously build time into my day to disconnect and reflect. Cognitive digestion, if you will. Writing on this blog is one way that I slow down and try to integrate new resources, ideas, and questions with my existing knowledge and skills.

Yesterday, I was reminded of the importance of regular reflection and processing time when I read something that I had read a few weeks prior. As I was reading this text again, I realized that in many ways it was like I was reading it for the first time. I had read it earlier this summer, but I had not reflected enough on the author's central message for his core ideas to become part of me.

Regular reflection and writing helps you to articulate your philosophy of teaching and learning. I see my philosophy as a core set of ideas that I use to filter and process new ideas and perspectives.

We all have a philosophy, whether we can easily state it or not. And the best way, in my opinion, to benefit from the amazing access to resources that we have today is to spend lots of time bringing your philosophy to the surface by writing about it and the new resources you encounter.

Only then will you be able to intelligently respond and grow. Do you blog about education? Why? Please let us know by leaving a comment and link below.  


  1. We are all works in progress, whether we have been teaching for two or twenty years. Reflection is important. So is discussion. Both help us work through beliefs and plans. Blog writing also allows you to go back and read what you intended to do, what worked well and what did not get done. I make it a practice to reread my school year blog posts during the summer in preparation for the next year. I have enjoyed reading your thoughts on Twitter.

  2. Hi Molly, I keep thinking about all I've read, written, and tweeted this summer.When I return to school,if I am not deliberate and thoughtful about my goals and realistic about how much I can change without burning myself out, little lasting change will occur.Hopefully, this blog and my PLN will help me stay focused.Nothing more powerful,I suspect, than reading my own words when times get tough,as they inevitably do.The school year is marathon, not a sprint.Need to remember this and reread my posts from time to time.