Classroom teachers all over Western New York are heading home this afternoon to catch their collective breath for the first time in many days. I’ve been out of the classroom for several years now, but September still feels like the true beginning of the new year to me. I’m still filled with the same sense of excited anticipation, and I’m still looking forward to trying new things and seeing what can be learned in the process. I have plenty of opportunity for that this year, and in preparation for that, I’ve been consuming myself with all kinds of research and dancing with that undeniable sense of overwhelm that confronts me whenever I begin looking for information online.
Do you know why this happens? Because I am old. No, seriously–I can still remember when information was actually hard to find. Maybe you know what I mean. In the olden days, when I went about the process of researching anything, locating the resources that I needed was probably one of the more challenging tasks. First, I had to deal with the card catalog, and then nine times out of ten, the material that I needed was no longer available….some other eager researcher had beat me to the check out line. During my senior year of high school, I was assigned a research paper on The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock. It almost killed me. Yet, I can still recall the sense of relieved satisfaction that overcame me as I wove myself through the bookshelves at my local library, happily picking up journals and texts and filling an entire table with the bounty of my harvest. Ten minutes later? When I began reading through these materials? I found myself sick all over again. Research isn’t merely about the hunt. Wasn’t then. Isn’t now. And as the last few years have taught all of us, improved access to information doesn’t make things any easier. We simply have more to consider…..more to think about. That’s a good thing, even though it may not feel like it all of the time.
This summer, I began to get my bearings with Diigo. I’m no power user of that tool by any stretch, but it is certainly something that rely upon almost daily, and I’m eager to begin connecting with others there as well. Bookmarking and tagging sites I value, highlighting key details within them, and having the capacity to share them with others helps me manage the information overload that threatens to split my brain in half. I’ve begun to consider the ways in which Diigo can help transform professional development, our own practice, and the ways in which we teach the research process as well. Jennifer Dorman’s tweet drew my attention to Miguel Guhlin’s piece on this. Both are great resources–check them out!