Monday, February 4, 2013

Drinking from a fire hose

Trying to get information from the Internet using tools like Twitter, Diigo, Google+, and blogs is like trying to take a drink from a fire hose. You can only take a little bit at a time and most of it goes right on by. This is reality.

A real life example would be going to an evening social event at an educational conference with a large group of people from your own grade level or subject area. You can't be part of every conversation taking place in the room. There might be some real interesting conversations going on across the room that you aren't part of. And when you decide it is time to leave and get to bed, the conversations may still be going on and you will be missing out on them.

In Twitter the conversations are taking place under different hashtags and they are never ending. You can only take part in some of them - when you have time, have an interest in the hashtag, topic or discussion, and it is convenient for you.

Another example would be walking into a library or bookstore and being overwhelmed by the books, magazines, newspapers, and other resources. You can't possibly read or browse through them all. We have learned to manage this situation though - we only go to the library or book store when we have time and it is convenient. When we go to the library or bookstore we are usually looking for something specific and we go right to the sections that we have an interest in. When I go to the bookstore, I am usually just browsing for something interesting, again in an area I am interested in, but not really knowing what I am looking for. If I need specific information there are people that I can ask for help. With Twitter I can post a question to other math teachers (#mathchat) or social studies teachers (#sschat) or elementary teachers (#elemchat) and hundreds (or thousands) of educators may be exposed to that questions.

One more example is going to the supermarket. This would pertain to when you are looking for something particular. There are thousands of food items found in many different isles. Some people head for the produce section while others avoid it. Some people head for the meat counter or dairy products, some to the chips and candy isle. It all depends on what you are looking for. In education, people search specific hashtags (#edchat, #4thchat, #mathchat) for things they are interested in.

This is how you need to handle the information coming at your from Twitter and other online resources. Don't feel you have to check every day or read everything you come across. Check Twitter when you have time and when it is convenient. Use Google Search when there is something specific you need to find information about.

I might go days at a time (or even a week or more) without checking Twitter. I check it when I have time, and when it is convenient. This is usually in the evenings when I am watching TV, checking during commercial breaks. And like in the library or bookstore, I just look for things I have an interest in, and when I find something of interest, I don't feel I have to read it immediately. I bookmark it in Diigo to check on when I have time or I might pass it on to someone who I know would be interested in it.

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