Still in the progress of rethinking my online reading habits. About three weeks ago, I deleted every feed from my Google Reader and decided to start over, and I’ve been slowly adding feeds as I come across things of interest. But I’ve also been looking at different avenues to find the most interesting, most relevant stuff, and, most importantly, to shift my reading to include more diversity. Here are just some unsorted reflections and benchmarks so far.
- I’ve stopped subscribing to all but a handful of edublogs. For some time now it’s been feeling like there’s not much new in the conversation. I may be guilty of that as well, and I think that’s a product of my narrow scope of reading.
- My main source of reading right now is my Delicious network, which I am constantly revisiting. I’m thinking that for me at least, 50 people is about the right amount of flow. This is without question, however, not a very diverse group of folks in terms of read/write web worldview. It’s almost all info candy. I continue to find it really interesting, however, to see the types of reading themes that people dive into as it tells much about where a particular person’s thinking or research is at.
- I’m finding myself devoting more time to the “friend’s shared items” in my Google Reader, which is a good and bad thing. The bad is that the “friends” list is generated by who is in my Gmail contacts which means I can’t add or delete folks from this stream without some difficulty. The good, however, is that there is some diversity in there as some of my contacts actively read and share thinking that is outside of my box at least. It’s been a main part in pushing my thinking about the whole “21st Century Skills” label, about which my thinking has been evolvoing quite a bit. (Short answer: Not much new there, but the label has some value.)
- This post by Marshall Kirkpatrick at Read/Write Web really has my thinking about filter creation a la Clay Shirky. There is something about this experimental phase that I really love, and I’ve been itching to figure out some different ways to identify, collect and sort the most relevant information out there. Not rocket science, and I’m sure others are farther down this road than I, but I’ve been hacking around with PostRank the last couple of days and waiting to see the results. I know that using a sorting feature to bring me only the most saved, commented upon, bookmarked posts from any blogs has it’s downsides, timeliness for one. But I’m playing with the choices.
- I’m also digging more deeply into the Google News search and subscribe features as well as the Twitter search stuff. For instance, you can do a search for any Tweets that have the word “literacy” and includes a link. Problem is, of course, that it doesn’t catch everything and much of what it does catch is irrelevant.
- I’m growing increasingly enamored withe Google Notebook as a way to capture the best snippets and ideas for a variety of purposes. More and more, I read with an ear for saving the most salient parts, which is really challenging me to think of my own organizational schemes in a good, but somewhat frustrating way.
So I’m asking for a couple of things, here. First, how do you create diversity in your reading? What strategies do you use and who are some authors that your read to get out of your own boxes? And second, what other ways of filtering information have you come across or do you use to increase your signal to noise ratio?
There is so much to read, and I want to read it all, but I know I can’t. What is most important to me right now is that my reading stretches me and pushes me, not just affirms what I think I already know. I feel bad on some level on giving up many of the blogs I’ve ready for many, many years now. But if I can tap into the strengths of the network and the best filters that are currently out there, I trust that the best thinking and writing from those long-followed sources will float up through my attention stream anyway.
(Photo “Research Team” by Dean Shareski.)
James Yap says
Try Set Godin. He is a business writer but he has a lot to say that applies to Education.
Paul C says
Two newer bloggers from Down Under whom I enjoy are educators who have character, wit, and whimsy:
Ken Allan at:http://newmiddle-earth.blogspot.com/ and Tania at Brave New World at: http://tsheko.wordpress.com/
All the best,
Deb White says
Besides iGoogle and Twitter, I use StumbleUpon to add diversity to my reading of the web. I also look at what my husband – a project manager currently in IT healthcare, is reading. Right now, he (and I ) are looking at http://www.fooledbyrandomness.com/ -Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s site. My son is a New Media major and I also look at streams of information that he shares with me.
Between StumbleUpon and family resources, I am able to create some diversity in my reading, thinking, and actions.
Warren Ediger says
Agreed about Google Notebook! Wonderful way to use it.
My other move this last year was toward “big ideas” regardless of their source. I’m finding them at TED (www.ted.com) and Edge (www.edge.org).
Jeff Wasserman says
Not much of a strategy, but I’ve been remembering the things I used to find important before I became a boring grown-up–music, funny things, photography, and the Mets–and have been finding blogs about those things. I now treat Google Reader as a leisure pursuit rather than something that’ll explicitly teach me about my job.
I haven’t been happier in a while.
Take a break from reading and start “reading.” Get an account with Audible.com and browse broadly in non-fiction. Listen to podcasts from IT Conversations. Watch TED, FORA.tv, and Pop!Tech. You’ll make some amazing cross-connections.
J. D. Wilson, Jr. says
I think dropping the blogs you have been reading is probably a good thing if the folks you are reading have stopped covering ground that is new to you. I do not know about avoiding a blogging platform because new stuff is new stuff whatever platform it appears on. I am very serendipitous, someone suggests something and if it interests me I check out the blog sites on the blog-roll (or whatever the list of blogs on the side of the entry itself is called).
I also try to stay connected to a number of different strands of things. I come here and to David Warlick and such folks for technology stuff, there are some medieval sites (I am a big fan of Old English and Old Norse and Chaucer and Malory and all) and I go to the Guardian and New York Times book review to stay up on books. I also like sites like “Keep the Coffee Coming” for folk music.
I just think it is important to have a diversity of interests and to be connected to more than one way of looking at stuff.
The real problem is that there is just too much stuff to check out and not enough hours in the day so I agree you have to find a way to be selective and broad based at the same time.
Randy Rodgers says
Delicious? That is sooo 2007, Will! Diigo is where all the cool kids are now! 🙂
I use twitter to keep up with the edusphere. You wouldn’t recognize much in my iGoogle account because 90% of it has nothing to do with education! I like to follow big thinkers like Kevin Kelly. But for the most part I am currently into art, artists, and design blogs. I even follow Kanye West’s blog just to keep it fabulous. You know what I mean, dawg?
I am the type of person who likes to discover personal topics of interests, so I created Yahoo Pipe feeds of tags from edtech folks’ delicious/diigo accounts. It’s a fair amount of work wading through an account like yours, but I have learned some pretty cool stuff.
For example, I am curious about the idea of PLN’s. I created the following pipe that I then subscribe to in Google Reader. I had to figure out that you tend to tag stuff that I like with labels like NetworkedLearning, network_literacy, personal_networks, etc… On the other hand, David Warlick’s best stuff uses the personallearningnetworks tag, and Howard Rheingold’s is online_community. After reading this, I kind of sound like a cyberstalker.
Here’s the link to the pipe. http://tinyurl.com/778hp8
I have created about ten in all, six of which are located here http://edfoc.us/?p=30
Hey! Thanks Willy and Will. Yes I love the crosscurrents that reading beyond my comfort zone brings to idea creation.
I’m using Friendfeed as a search tool-in preference to Twitter. I recognise its yet to hit the big time in volume but imagine if everyone’s feeds were in there!I’m actually using Stumble Upon as a Bookmarking strategy so it feeds straight into my Friendfeed.
PS! Using Stumbleupon as my bookmarker brings up the images of the pages and I love these visual cues (there’s two view at least so find the view that show the images). I can easily scroll my Friendfeed or view my Stumbleupon page. But Prefer Friendfeed view.
Colette Cassinelli says
Your photo illustration is not very diverse.
Every few months I drop a few RSS feeds and pick up some new ones or try a different method like you explained Twitter/Delicious/Ning. It keeps it fresh and interesting. I also try to vary who I follow male/female, teacher/admin, edublogger/non-edublogger.
Scott Walters says
This has nothing to do with anything but life in general, but it is a great blog by Patti Digh called “37 Days” )http://37days.typepad.com/37days/). I also recommend Patti’s recent book, “Life Is a Verb.”
For me it is all about the title. If a blogger can hook me with a creative title, I generally find their writing is going to be interesting and give me a reason to read it. If the title is boring, I generally skip it.
Ah, well, I do this about 3 times a year–drop everything, then realize I miss some blogs *A LOT*. I tried putting all the education/library blogs in one reader and everything else in another, which was a horrible idea. I’ve subscribed to nearly every feed bundle option available at Google to find new stuff, which is why at the moment I have 558 subscriptions. My ideal number of subscriptions is under 400, so I’m still cutting. The thing is, I miss some blogs a lot when I try these little experiments. For example, three science blogs are my favorites–Asymptotia (I met this blogger last summer in Aspen), Adventures in Ethics and Science, and The Loom. Some education blogs are *really* important to me, including yours, 2 cents worth, Blue Skunk Blog, Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub, and Cool Cat Teacher Blog. I love Business Opportunities Weblog. I subscribe to some cool geology blogs, including All my Faults are Stress Related. A lot of my blogs are photo blogs, like the daily photo blogs for Paris, Moscow, and St. Louis. I love Dipnotes, the State Department blog. I love Justin Webb’s BBC blog about US politics. Sometimes I think I was designed for an information overload. If I feel overloaded, I just mark them all read and start over again another day. I do use my delicious network a lot, but not this time of year when I’m working two jobs. As for Ted, when I’m at my online job, I’ve been watching the talks in alphabetical order, which has been fun and informative.
LOL! There is absolutely nothing wrong with ‘cleaning out the closet’ so to speak! We do it in real life, and heaven knows considering how easy it is to ‘click & accumulate’ in our digital lives the clutter we amass grows exponentially. I clear out my digital closet twice a year. Get rid of blogs that I’ve come to only scan, drop Tweeters who use Twitter as a two-way radio, and try to round out my online content to include sources that are non-techy, such as scrapbooking (albeit digital scrapbooking! LOL), cooking, traveling, etc.
And on occasion I walk away from it all for a day or two. For me, it puts it all in perspective again. In fact, I feel a post coming on on just that topic! LOL
I wish the recent boringness of the edublogosphere was fixable by changing things in my reader, but I don’t think it is. The elephant in the room is that, for all the talk about things that need to change, nothing is happening.
I think most of us edtechs keep trying to show everyone all of these great tools, but we’re to a point where everyone who’s going to ride the carousel of progress is already on board. It doesn’t help that most technology being targeted to education just isn’t of acceptable quality. (Nor does it help that we keep buying this crud.)
Beyond edtech: the stressful economy has killed any real-world discussion of necessary changes to tenure, teacher pay, classroom ratios, and other employment issues.
I’m hoping this is temporary, but when I’m trying to look forward to actual improvements, the history of education isn’t very encouraging.
John Wilson, Jr. says
I am just a teacher who is trying to keep up, not a real tech person. I check out this and a few other sites to get ideas for things to integrate into my class and to keep up with where things are going. I agree there is not a lot interest in this at the administrative level but for those of us trying to keep up while we do the other things we have to do sites like this are valuable. But I can see if you are already on top of this stuff or already fooling around with next year, than your needs are obviously different. Still I hope people keep suggesting things for those of us still struggling to catch up to 2006.
Marsha Ratzel says
I have the same problem…but then I come from a business background where we did something called Zero Based Budgeting. Every year you had to go back through your budget, justify to yourself and your boss why you had the line items you did and why they should have the $$ attached to them. No rolling along on momentum. it really was a good exercise in reflective culling!!!!
May I be so bold as to suggest some iTunes possibilities. I have really tried to expand the way I think about things because I feel like the ed world is so resistant to ideas from outside its sphere. somehow we think, IMHO, that we are so unique and ideas from elsewhere are transferrable.
My favorites that come via iTunes are The Idea Cast from Harvard Business School and the Innovation Podcast from Wharton’s School of business. Talk about 21st century ideas. These kick my thinking into a whole new place and makes me think about our schools and our kids in new ways.
Best of luck. I am going to investigate some of the ideas you shared. Maybe I’ll blog about my successes/failures with those!!! Add something new to the conversations!!!
While I agree with the idea of branching out and looking for new ideas, let’s not forget that we are far from done with the old conversation…
Tony Searl says
I just did an annual rubbish tip run, cleaned out the RSSshed and archived the 2008 netvibe tabs.
As 2009 unfolds, I’ll move the resonating ideas that stick into the 09reader, without totally deleting 08, yet. Its an emergence system, not as severe as pressing the big D button. Gives the cream time to float and the curdled can become cheese before deletion. (however sometimes the tastiest blue takes time to become a savoury gem, hence I keep it in the larder, just in case)
Ethno/cultural/socio/economic diversity is what I actively pursue on my reading lists, follow the best of the diametrically opposed views.Forced neuro discomfort.
Not for profit? follow the free marketeers.
W.A.S.P.? then RSS some LDC Asian Zen sites.
R&B junkie? listen to Wagner.
It amazing how it deblinkers, creates brain contention and prompts critical reflection of your own core values. The new learning is more vital and the idea cross pollination amazing. The filters work overtime but I’d rather strike one precious stone than have a sack full of gravel at the end of 2009
I, too, purge every once in a while and use google reader’s recommendations to find new things. I also look closely at who’s linking to me and often add blogs that way as we’re usually interested in the same things. I also sometimes peruse technorati or google blog search to look for other blogs. I have a wide variety of stuff in my reader: everything from unclutterer to lolcats. And while my “education” category is the largest, it’s nice to have some other categories to venture to.
Will Richardson says
Thanks for stopping by. Question for you and for everyone else since I’m not seeing much in terms of how we balance the diversity of ideas… Who are the “opposing voices” in your list? Who do you read that you disagree with? How actively do you seek dissent?
That’s the crux of my struggle and I wonder how others deal with it.
Jim McGuire says
When I started using Google Reader, I never would have thought that it would end up working against my goal. As you mentioned, I hoped to read a variety of opinions from educators in a variety of settings with diverse ideas. Unfortunately, using a reader tended to force me into a pattern of reading the same blogs, just to keep up.
Although I check several blogs regularly, now I mostly just follow the links. I have found by exploring favorites, I discover many new blogs that are well worth reading. I bookmark the best and stop back in when time allows.
Michael Heidelberg says
I agree with your assessment that there has been a convergence of thought by many of the leading educational bloggers. It may be that the Web 2.0 revolution is losing steam as there is less funding for startups and the research and development that has lead to the kind of revolutionary web platforms that we can co-opt into education – and therefore there is less to talk about.
But I think that it might be something different – and I’ve noticed it a lot in my reading and experience with colleagues. It’s almost is that the “evangelizing phase” of the Web 2.0 revolution is over – Web 2.0 really is mainstream. Grandmothers have Facebook accounts, and every teacher that I know has been trained in some way on how to use particular (district approved) Web 2.0 tools.
Many of the great educational bloggers who helped spread the good word about these tools, and helped legitimize them in the educational sphere, have “moved on” – and moved out of the classroom. Many have moved into positions of tech specialists, or out of schools altogether.
And with the exception of some of the great thinker-bloggers (like you Will, Warlick, etc), I’m noticing that this disconnect with the actual students in the classroom is becoming increasingly apparent. (Why do educators use Twitter, when every person and student I know under 30 uses Facebook for the same thing?) In my PLP cohort, the best conversations have been started by teachers, and reflect what is actually going on “on the ground” (Mobile learning for example). Many of the bloggers I read have overlapping “Personal Learning Networks” and too many times it seems that those PLN’s don’t include students.
Anyway, I hope that the next phase in this movement is less tech-centric and more utilitarian.
Michael Heidelberg says
BTW – looks like Google Notebook won’t be around for too much longer: http://lifehacker.com/5131781/where-to-go-when-google-notebook-goes-down
Jean Tower says
I have a couple of suggestions and they are both news digests of sorts. The first is the Marshall Memo , A Weekly Round-up of Important Ideas and Research in K-12 Education , compiled and distributed by Kim Marshall , former teacher, central office curriculum director, and Boston principal. This is an excellent digest and well worth the subscription fee. Kim reads 44 professional, mainstay journals (see list ) and pulls from other sources, as well. He chooses several articles every week to synopsize. His criteria for inclusion are thoughtful and vary from reviewing an old idea in a new light to practical information with real examples. On his web site you can read a more thorough explanation of how he chooses articles for inclusion.
I subscribe to the Marshall Memo because for a very small fee, I receive the services of a professional, designated reader, a well-respected educator with many years of experience in K-12 education. There is no way I have the time to read as many journals as Kim Marshall reads for me, and the journals cover a wide variety of topics and themes from policy to curriculum to professional development. This service really helps me to diversify my reading, in terms of topics, authors, and viewpoints. I find that reading â€œmainstreamâ€ professional education journals keeps me more in touch with what my less web-connected colleagues are thinking is important and broadens my own perspective. This service helps me select which articles to read in full, but also gives me a useful summary for those articles I donâ€™t follow up on to read the full version.
The second news digest service that I endorse is the Public Education Network (PEN) Newsblast . Although, if you are going to subscribe to only one, my recommendation is the Marshall Memo. PEN Weekly Newsblast “is a free electronic newsletter featuring resources and information about public school reform, school finance, and related issues.” To subscribe to the Newsblast, visit the main web page where there is a link to their RSS feed. This is also a good way to stay informed about mainstream topics in education, but I find that the vetting of articles included in the Marshall Memo fits my needs better.
Last, this is probably much too obvious for most readers of Willâ€™s blog, but I also suggest subscribing to education topics through RSS feeds for the New York Times and NPR, for some of the same reasons to subscribe to the news digests mentioned above. I think that one difference between the digests and NYT and NPR is the intended audience. NYT and NPR are writing for the general reading public, while the digests are targeting readers from the education profession.
I read edublogs and visit wikis and am developing an online presence because these activities connect me to knowledgeable colleagues and allow me to create a strong personal learning network. The ideas and resources I encounter move me toward being a better Technology Director, and a better professional developer. The articles I read from PEN and the Marshall Memo help me connect my online learning to more topics of concern to educators. It is these connections that help me make progress in my own district. I advise Instructional Technology Specialists to really listen at school and to hone in to what the core curriculum concerns are in their building so that they can help teachers apply technology to those issues. For me, I try to apply the same principle on a broader scale, and these digests are a couple of the tools I use to gather information about these core concerns.
Hi Will it just occurred to me what about reading children’s writing (not child literature!)? I’m thinking now where might I best locate a good source of children’s thoughts ideas etc?
The Steiner Education is a great idea.I understand from investigation that every Steiner School has their own interpretation of the Steiner Philosophy so it can be like chalk and cheese, but sounds like you’ve found the one that fits.XRuth