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“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.
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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.
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.
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…
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