Last summer, I read this post by Bob Dillon (not him) about how educators can avoid information overload in professional learning. I saved the link as a draft post to remind me to respond it at a later time. Now that it's August again, I've opened it at least a half-dozen times without writing anything. I was thinking this morning about all the learning I've done this summer, and how I really needed to get some blog posts going to help me process it all before school starts and reflection opportunities become a lot harder to find. When I opened my blog, I remembered and reread Dr. Dillon's post. He has some great tips for managing the potentially overwhelming volume of content available. He suggests that by shifting how we retain, reflect upon, and redistribute information, educators can move beyond comfort zones and implement "fresh practices."
One strategy I've used to help me retain information is is tweeting content I find meaningful from professional learning. Dillon talks about "taking the right notes" as a strategy to support retention of new information. I've found that trying craft important ideas into fewer than 140 characters really helps me understand it a little more deeply. I use this strategy during face-to-face sessions, as well as within book chats and twitter chats. Using Twitter as a format for professional reflection makes me more likely to focus on the most important or most easily implemented ideas, rather than feeling I need to attempt to master something massive or unrealistic.
Dillon offers three actions for reflecting upon information, including "have a quality space for synthesizing ideas." I am woefully inadequate in this area, as I've probably stopped and started this blog post 20 time. I have quality space, but often fail to carve out quality time. As I mentioned here, I'm better with structure for reflection, so I tend synthesize ideas in my quality space once I have an externally accountable structure.
That accountability for reflection for me is most often spurred on by my efforts to redistribute information. I love chatting in person or online about new learning. Dillon's suggestions for this element of 21st-Century professional development all speak to being intentional about sharing. When I focus on systematically sharing new learning with peers, I consistently end up with even more content and questions.
Stay tuned to see if I apply Dillon's strategies to my summer learning from Project Zero, this book, this book, and the leadership conference in my district, as well as the course I just began.