Information Overload? Join the club…

Posted on August 31, 2008. Filed under: Uncategorized |

by Kevin Merritt – Instructional Technology

If I may be so honest, there are times when I feel like I need to go crawl in a hole and escape the overstimulation of the digital world in which we live.  I sometimes want to follow the lead of my autistic nephew.  When he gets overstimulated by all the “action” around him, he goes to a quiet place in his house to regain some “sanity.”  I think he has a lot more insight than we give him credit for…

There is so much to learn, so many emails to read, so many new “technology initiatives,” and so many “tools” that we sometimes get overwhelmed to the point that we just need to stop and gain some perspective on what we are trying to do as educators.  Information is now delivered at the speed of light, and it comes to us in exponential amounts!

The technology and “tools” we as educators have access to is mind-boggling.  How many of us go to workshops and get some new “tools and resources,” but go back to our classroom and add that binder to the 35 others on our shelf with no time to sort through and utilize some of it?  This is happening even more so with digital information.  For example, we have emails coming from everywhere showing us all the ” new and exciting” things that we should be doing in the classroom.  We have websites and links to vast pools of resources, but struggle to make sure our daily lessons include an Essential Question and appropriate standards.  This can be frustrating for both new and veteran teachers.  It’s time to go find our quiet place…

There is an interesting article in the August 25, 2008 issue of Computerworld entitled “Too Much Information to Digest?  It’s Time for a Data Diet.”  It is not specifically geared toward education, but it does a good job of discussing the “information overload” problem in general as it applies to keeping up with technology.

Here are some things I am hoping to do this year to cut down on my “overload:”

1.  Get more organized – I am not the most organized person, so I am going to try to set aside a few minutes each day or week to get organized at work.  For those of us who are not as organized, this has a huge effect on other areas in our lives.  Simple things like filing papers, responding immediately to simple email questions so I can delete that email, and organizing the files and documents on my computer will most certainly help my stress level go down. 

2.  Cut back on email subscriptions and “junk” – I have so many miscellaneous emails some days that it just adds to my frustration.  I have to take time to skim them to determine if I can delete them.  Just get rid of ’em!  Remember that you don’t have to subscribe to every Podcast, RSS feed, and mailing list to get information.  If I want to find something specific, there is always Google…

3.  Focus my learning – Our staff has to be knowledgeable about many different things so that we can share these with our district.  I get overwhelmed sometimes with all the things I am supposed to “know.”  I want to become more knowledgeable  by focusing on one item, learning it fairly well, then moving on to another.  Right now, I feel like I know a little about a lot, but not a lot about each one.  As a teacher, you may want to focus on one new learning tool and learn it well.  If you are already comfortable with your Promethean/SMART board, consider focusing on a new tool, such as blogging, Google tools, or something of interest to you.  Don’t try to learn it all.  Remember, you still have to make lesson plans, incorporate Learning Focus strategies, address standards, handle discipline, etc.

4.  Take a few “mental” minutes daily – When I taught middle and high school science, I always got to work at 7:15 to “get it together.”  I was one of the 3 people there at that time, so I had some nice, quiet time to put things on the board, get manipulatives ready for my lesson, finish a lab setup, or even simply to reflect, pray, or just enjoy a quiet moment before the day began.  THERE was my quiet place!

5.  Decompress – I have been going to my local gym on a regular basis for over a year now.  I have not only lost 25 pounds, but I have also felt more energetic, slept better at night, and been better able to handle some stress without having a total nervous breakdown.  It really does help me.  When I miss a day here and there (I go 3 or 4 evenings a week) I notice a difference.

I hope some of you will join me as I seek to better myself professionally in a manageable way, relieve some stress, and keep everything in perspective!

I would love to hear from YOU about how you are making adjustments to have a more manageable school year personally and professionally.  Post your comments to the blog!

Have a great, MANAGEABLE, productive school year.


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3 Responses to “Information Overload? Join the club…”

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Great suggestions. Even though I’m retired, I tend to spend way too much time in front of the computer. My hubby and I walk 4.5 miles each day and I’m also trying to do at least an hour a day of gardening. In the evenings I have been shutting down the computer early enough to do some crocheting, reading and watching TV.

Dear Kevin….
I think we all face overload and all the things people think we are suppose to know and don’t really know. I like you plan for the new year. I could use those tips as well. Good luck..

Kevin, I agree wholeheartedly!! Digital Information OVERLOAD is something we go through DAILY! I do go to workshops and classes to learn the next great thigh to use and I admit, some of it goes into my “yet another great information” binder. I made a great effort this summer to get my stuff organized and I make an even greater effort to get information digitally because all these user manuals etc pile up and make my classroom cluttered. I don’t do teacher’s editions unless they are on a CD and I prefer to give worksheets etc via powerpoint. I’m also, so excited about our online community my co-workers and I have set up for our self contained classes because I will then be able to have a conversation and assess them when I am at my best which is not always at the top of the school morning. That will also cut down on all those loose leaf sheets of paper! Now, to relax… I just turn on some digital music on the laptop really loud and IGNORE everyone for a little while 🙂

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