Mrs. Daubert ELA

Instructional Media Weblog

Following the White Rabbit Down the Pinterest-hole

Photo credit: https://www.i2clipart.com

“What do you MEAN you aren’t on Pinterest?”

It’s a question I hear constantly and incredulously from teacher friends and co-workers. No, I’m really not. And before you label me Queen Velma of Old Fart Island, let me assure you, I’ve got a good reason.

Would you believe I’ve been trying to write this post since early Monday morning? I had NINE browser tabs open while I was chatting on Facebook Messenger to two or three different people, messing around with Flipgrid, checking emails, answering inquiries from my postings on Letgo on my phone, staring longingly at my copy of George R.R. Martin’s A Storm of Swords (I’m one chapter away from The Red Wedding!!!), contemplating cup of coffee number three, and SQUIRREL.

Every other day this week was much the same, though the distractions changed from time to time. The only way I was able to actually buckle down and finish writing was to close all of my browser tabs, log out of all my email accounts, put my phone on airplane mode, and lock myself in the home office (sorry kids, you’re on your own for breakfast this morning–Mommy’s GOT to get this done).

Author’s Edit: By the time I had finished posting, my sons had made themselves each cups of hot chocolate as big their faces and buttered toast that they proceeded to meticulously cover with Teddy Grahams and Trix. I wonder if my mom wants them today…

Putting myself on Pinterest would be downright reckless. Oh, I’d start off with the best of intentions–perhaps I’d like to pin some ideas for first month of school bulletin boards–but before I knew it, I’d be so far into Pinterest-land that I’d be planning a killer birthday party for the kid two blocks down the street and terribly late for a very important date.

Photo Credit: http://getdrawings.com

Come on, Mrs. Daubert, curation tools are extremely valuable for educators.

Yes, I know. I don’t have anything against them; in fact, I WANT to use them. I just need to find one that works for me and given my easily distracted brain, I know Pinterest is not my thing. So I decided to try a few others.

I started with Symbaloo. I’d had an inservice on it about two years ago and vaguely remembered thinking it was neat, so that seemed like a good place to begin. After about five attempts, I remembered my old username and password and I was IN.

Even with the meager content I had curated who-knows-how-long ago, this was just too busy for my brain to handle. Like Pinterest, it was too pretty, too exciting. I wanted to click, click, click, add, add, add, and share, share, share–but not any of the things I was SUPPOSED to click, add, and share.

My mind works an awful lot like the 8th graders I teach. Sometimes, that seriously hinders my productivity.

Exhibit A:

A few years ago two boys were standing in my doorway before the start of the school day. One starts running in circles around the other.

“Look, Mrs. Daubert,” one of them proclaims, “We’re the moon orbiting the Earth!”

And without even stopping to think, I immediately respond, “Could’ve fooled me–I thought you were a gaseous cloud orbiting Uranus.”

This stops them in their tracks. They look at each other. They look at me. Then an expression comes over both of them like I’ve just handed them liquid gold and they run to another room to show off their “new” joke. Way to go Mrs. Daubert. Way. To. Go.

Exhibit B:

Fast forward to this school year. It is a dress down day and I’m wearing my Run DMC t-shirt.

“Ew,” a student says, “Run DMC is old and corny!”

“Oh yeah?” I retort, “Well, without Run DMC, Drake would have to find something ELSE to be terrible at.”

The class erupts in a chorus of OOOOOOOOHHHHHHHHHHHHs. Yep, I made my own class spontaneously combust.

These isolated incidents aside, being able to think like an 8th grader has its advantages. As the kids would say, I’m a BEAST at planning lessons that maximize productivity and minimize distractions. It’s all because I do one simple thing: let the hyperactive 8th grader part of my brain run wild while I’m planning. If I can’t focus on the activity, they won’t be able to either.

If I am looking at curation tools not only as a means for me to collect and store ideas, but also for student use in my classroom? Pinterest and Symbaloo aren’t going to make the grade.

On to the next one!

I tried Flipboard next. Seemed like a logical choice. I’d seen it recommended on several “hotlists” and I already used the app on my phone.

Disappointment again. Just like Symbaloo and Pinterest, Flipboard had the potential to become very busy, very quickly. On top of that? Oh, the pre-curated articles about politics! I follow politics the way some people follow their local home team. I have favorite anchors, pundits, and commentators. I yell at the TV when I watch cable news. Flipboard encouraged me to waste time on pet interests even more than the others! For heaven’s sake, even the productivity tab was encouraging me NOT to be productive:

Finally, there it was–standing right in front of me all along like true love in a Rom Com

Feedly! At the suggestion of a professor from one of my summer grad school courses, I’ve been using Feedly to curate my classmates’ blogs and get notified when someone updates a post. I dove in a little deeper to see what else I could do with the tool.

Here is an awesome quickstart tutorial for anyone who wants to try it:

This tutorial helped me to understand what else I could do beyond the simplicity of following a feed of my classmates. It focuses on the iPad app, but the concepts are easily applicable to the web version as well:

The verdict from my busy, busy brain? Feedly is much cleaner looking than the other curation tools I tried. My mind found the linear layout soothing rather than overstimulating. In short, Feedly allowed me to do what I wanted–find, click, add, link, compile, organize, and share without encouraging my poor brain to chase white rabbits. It even has features that allow me to eliminate or hide content I find distracting.

And if I can focus while using Feedly, that means my students will be able to as well. Ultimately, this is what I want. Three years ago, my school adopted a blended learning model and the more I learned professionally, the more I knew I wanted Genius Hour to be part of what I do in my classroom. I’ve done Genius Hour projects every year since. Some incredible projects have come to fruition during this time, but as anyone who has ever done Genius Hour or any other large PBL undertaking knows, keeping everyone organized and on track can pose a challenge.

I believe Feedly has the power to help me with that. To that end, I’ve begun the process of putting together a board that will help me get ready for next school year’s Genius Hour. Here is what I’ve got so far (the biggest drawback of the free version of Feedly is that I can only share boards and lists via email, not with the internet in its eternal vastness):

Now that we’ve found love, what are we going to do with it?

This is where you come in, dear readers! What should I add to my Genius Hour board? What do any of YOU do with Feedly? Have I made a grievous error in my denouncement of the other curation tools I tried? Have I missed or overlooked something that prevented me from being able to calm my dumpster fire of a brain? Or has it all really just been a futile exercise in…

Photo Credit: https://www.publicdomainpictures.net/

Cheers!

Mrs. Daubert

3 Comments

  1. Hi Rebekah,

    I must say that your blog post had me cracking up. You are an excellent writer and you have blogging in your DNA. Plus the amount of thought and content you put into it really paid off… at least for me, because when I read your entry, I still hadn’t decided what tool I would be using for my own project. You really helped me to get an idea of what the benefits and pitfalls were for some of these curation apps. I didn’t end up going with Feedly, but I have used it in the past and definitely agree with your analysis. It really is a very user-friendly tool that does a great job keeping me organized and updated with the content I’m looking for.

    Keep up the good work, and good luck with your Genius Hour!

  2. Hannah Hauser

    July 6, 2018 at 10:47 pm

    Your voice really shines through in your blog posts – they are fun to read! Thanks for another enjoyable reading (sometimes site reviews can be a little dry!). I never considered how over-stimulating sites like Pinterest and Symbaloo could be, especially for those with the 8th-grade mindset. 🙂 Now that you’ve mentioned it – as a regular Pinterest user – I can certainly understand. I am guilty of falling down the rabbit hole FOR SURE. And being lost for HOURS.
    I tried Diigo for a curation tool and wrote my review on it. It is similar in looks to Feedly, but I am a big Feedly fan as well. I’ve never tried Flipboard, so I’ll add that to my list of new tools to try. I’m going to stick with Diigo for the time being and see how well it works out for me.

  3. Scott Leitzel

    July 6, 2018 at 6:47 pm

    Mrs.Daulbert,

    As always, your blog post makes me laugh, reread to follow train of thought, and laugh again. You have a writing style that grabs your reader’s attention. This starts with your amazing titles. I especially love the one for this week in reference to rabbit trails.

    It is interesting that you mention Symbaloo as providing potential distraction for both you and students. I forgot about Symbaloo as a potential curation tool until you mentioned it. I used it with students several years ago. I would curate multiple websites to either give students choices of activities when finished with a project or exit pass, or perhaps use Symbaloo as a type of landing page that contained links to basic documents, Web 2.0 tools, and applications that we might need for class within a particular quarter. It was helpful at the time, but I can see the potential for student (and adult) distraction. The other drawback of Symbaloo is that it limits the ability to comment. You can share webmixes via Twitter and Facebook, but it is difficult to locate the commenting space using this curation tool.

    Thanks for sharing the idea about Feedly as a curation tool. I followed the tutorial video you included in your post. It was helpful, but I got confused between a storyboard and a new feed. Now I realize that I can search for other blogs that include keywords, follow them, and then choose to add certain blog content to a storyboard. These storyboards would then be shared within our class as a demonstration of curated research materials. Thanks for sharing this resource. Writing this caused me to go back to Feedly and watch the video for sharing options. It seems like Feedly allows you to share your feeds with people within your organization for a subscription fee. However, if you just want a space to comment on a resource posted, you would need to go to the blog itself. The comments would not go to the curator, but each individual blog author.

    This brings up an either interesting question (if others have this as well) or “dumb” question (if everyone knows the obvious answer) I find myself reading the resources that come up in my Flipboard tool. After reading, I usually make a comment that summarizes what I read, and then add a few tags. Why am I commenting? What is the purpose? This does not seem like the area for discussion to happen, or is it? It seems more like a place where I document what I read so I can search later for a resource as I am looking through my curated resources and begin the final project. Does anyone from our class have some thoughts on this? What is the purpose of the comment section in the curation tools?

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