Rising above the mess of RSS

(Note: I read about this method of organization on a blog someone tweeted out several months ago, and have only recently begun to try it out.  If this story sounds familiar to anyone reading, and you have a source site where you read about it before, please share it in the comments, as I truly want to give credit where credit is due.  Thanks!)

A few months ago, I started using RSS feeds (aggregated through Google Reader) to subscribe to blogs and news feeds that I want to know about on a frequent basis.  Prior to that time, I relied on my twitter PLN to tweet out interesting posts (which I still do, though it has its limitations).  That method of relying on tweets left a lot to chance- if I happened to catch the right spot in the stream, I received all sorts of ‘goodies.’  At this point in time, however, as one colleague put it the other day, “I need information to seek out and find me, not the other way around.”  Hence the RSS subscriptions.

My path in navigating this data stream has been similar to many others, I’m sure- after finding myself reading certain blogs on a frequent basis, I would decide to subscribe via RSS.  Once I got up to a dozen sites or so, I would feel the urge to organize those subscriptions, and started by putting blogs together based on similar content (e.g. EdTech, SBAR, Leadership, Music, Sports, etc).  While it ‘cleaned up’ my reader feed, those folders ultimately did not help me to read through the mass of information- I simply found folders full of dozens of unread posts.  As the numbers of unread blogs continued to increase, I tended to put off trying to read them.  (Human psychology at its best, right?)  I needed a new way.

Thankfully, I ran across a blog post that has changed my RSS life.  The author’s advice?  Don’t organize your feeds by their content, organize them by the day of the week you will read them.

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Suddenly, I have been able to get over the information paralysis.  When I logged on to Google Reader this morning, I didn’t feel the need to read every post- only the ones in the Friday folder.  I no longer ask myself, “What am I interested in reading?” as it’s a given that I am interested in all of it.  (After all, I was the one who willfully chose to subscribe to these feeds in the first place.)  Instead, I now ask the question, “What day is it?”  This question is much easier to answer (most of the time).  So long as I am comfortable not having seen these posts at the nanosecond of their publication (which, in all honesty, is not a concern for me), I now have a method of keeping up with the posts.  What’s great is, I do still use some level of content organization on the daily feeds…now, I just happen to read them all, too!

In honor of 4/8’s #followfriday, I’ll list a few of the blogs in my “Days of the Week” folders here (along with Twitter contact info, in case you’re interested in following these brilliant folks as well).  Happy reading!

Sunday PM: Ed Leadership – Starting tomorrow’s work today

Monday: A Mix of Perspectives Around Teaching & Learning

Tuesday: Tech Tuesday!

Wednesday: Book Learnin’ & Leadin’
Thursday: From the STEM & SBAR Classroom
Friday: Instructional Coaching (Looking for more…suggestions?)
Saturday AM: The Sports Blogroll – Golf tips & Fantasy Sports info

Saturday PM: The Music Blogroll – Pitchfork Media, SPIN, & all things Radiohead

Sunday AM: A place for politics – Factcheck.org, Politifact.com, local OpEds 

If you have any suggestions of feeds to follow related to these topics, please share them in the comments sections.  Also, mad props to anyone who can share with me other places where they have seen this idea…I really want to track down the impetus for this process and give credit where it is most certainly due.

Finally, thanks to all of you teachers, authors, bloggers and tweeters mentioned above.  By making your thoughts & practice public, you help me to learn and grow as a leader, as an educator, and most importantly as a human walking his path.

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Editor’s Note @ 6:14pm: Since posting this message earlier today, I have made some great connections w/new blogs: Lyn Hilt’s The Principal’s Posts, Connected Principals, TEDucation, Engaging Educators, The Nerdy Teacher, and Full-On Learning, among others.  Thanks everyone for sharing the feeds you love to read & write!
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Blogs of Faith and Devotion

During the MSNBC Teacher Town Hall on September 25, 2010, Van Meter superintendent of schools and #edchat enthusiast John Carver (@johnccarver) had the idea of asking, “What’s Working?” on Twitter. ACPS teacher Paula White (@paulawhite) suggested that we all go write a blog about what’s working in education, and share our stories with the hashtag #educationnation.

See below for these blogs of hope (more will be added as they are posted under the hashtag #educationnation):

In Made to Stick, Chip & Dan Heath write that stories have the power to get people to act.  Some stories help us know how to act in a situation, while others inspire us with energy to act.  What are your stories?  Please share them over the hashtag #educationnation, as these stories will help all of us, our colleagues, and our communities take the steps we need to take right now.

What’s Working? Making Practice Public!

As a response to the MSNBC Teacher Town Hall on September 26, 2010, ACPS teacher Paula White (@paulawhite) suggested that we all go write a blog about what’s working in education, and share our stories with the hashtag #educationnation. Here’s mine:

What’s working right now for me in my practice as an educator is the unprecedented access I have to discuss teaching and learning (within my school division, nationwide, and across the globe), and the growth opportunities that this level of public practice presents to me every day.

I have colleagues that open their classrooms to me in my school.  During lunch, my former teammate and I would talk about our upcoming plans for classes, and would often discuss a new practice we were planning to do with our students.  When I asked if I could watch and see how it worked out in his class, he welcomed me in.  The trust paid off, and I grew as a result – seeing his classroom sparked ideas for me related to the little nuances of our craft…ideas I may never have had without the opportunity to see him practice.  I like to think that he grew as well – in our follow-up conversations, he would talk about his impressions of the class and ask for my thoughts and feedback, which led to adjustments in his future class periods.  If something I said sparked a curiosity in him, he would come by to see my class as well, and the cycle of growth continued.

I have colleagues that open their classrooms to me across my division.  As a group of instructional coaches in our county, we seek to replicate the opportunities for these reflective partnerships that promote professional growth.  Since the beginning of the school year, I have started several new connections with teachers who have e-mailed looking for a reflective partner in practices as diverse as starting experimental design projects, gauging student progress, or planning learning opportunities during a field trip.  With each opportunity, I help the teacher see their practice through a new set of eyes, usually finding ways to connect them with other teachers.  Some of those teachers are wrestling with these same topics, while others have found a way that works for them (but are looking for ideas just as well).  When we make our practice public, we can learn from the connections that follow.

I have colleagues that open their classrooms to me across the world.  Just this week, I have read new blog posts written by educators who are inviting me into their classroom practice.  Their thoughts spark ideas in me, and their questions inspire me to seek new answers. I learned from two teachers in Iowa in Riley Lark’s (@rileylark) practice of standards-based grading, and Shawn Cornally’s (@ThinkThankThunk) continued goal to promote truly student-centered learning.  John Sowash (@jrsowash) pushed my practice from Cincinnati by sharing his lessons learned from “flipping his classroom,” while stories from Kansas’ Jim Knight (@jimknight99) about recognizing the fear inherent to professional growth helped me to recognize how the fear vs growth relationship applies to my own work.  I even had a chance to help, responding to Brooklyn’s Sam Shah (@samjshah) in his desire to find ways to get his kids to think about graphs differently, all because he had both the trust and the desire to tell everyone about it.  By sharing his practice with me, both he and I have grown in our profession.

Like any art, skill or science, I grow when I see and hear about the practice of others.  As I continue to grow as an educator, I will seek out more opportunities to make my practice public, and I hope to inspire others to do the same – that is what is working for me right now!