For an extensive list of Web2.0 software, go to IT Redux (via the DEN Blog).

Sudeep Bansal has a good list of Essential Freeware for the PC User.

Another comprehensive list of freeware can be found at 121 Space.

Steve Froemming has a list of Academic Freeware.

And for a short list of freeware for Mac OS X, go to "Open Source Mac".

I read an article two months ago called "Simple ways to make yourself far cleverer" (Denis Campbell, The Observer, in The Guardian). According to it, we can all become up to 40% cleverer in a week by playing games, solving puzzles, remembering lists, even "taking a shower with your eyes closed." Some time ago, I read another article on a similar topic, which included using the left hand to do functions normally reserved for the right hand (vice versa if you're left-handed, of course), such as combing your hair or brushing your teeth.

Apparently, just as exercising one's muscles strengthens them, exercising one's brain makes it cleverer. But, I imagine, just as serious weightlifters change up their routine about every two months--because the muscles plateau when repeating the same exercises--brain exercises must vary the games, puzzles, or types of lists.

I'm wondering about applying these findings to composition pedagogy, particularly that of playing games or solving puzzles. It's not clear that making someone smarter is related to helping someone learn. That would be an interesting proposition to research. But I'm wondering if it's not only that people become smarter, but that they may do so related to a particular subject like writing. For now, I'll bypass that and look at the interest factor of games and puzzles.

I like the notion of applying games and puzzles to learning, not simply because it would make students smarter, but because as Csikszentimihalyi wrote in his "Thoughts on Education",

It is not that students cannot learn, it is that they do not wish to.

Csikszentmihalyi states that it's important that students understand the real consequences of learning, or not learning, and that it's more important that learning become "fun," that is, intrinsically interesting.

Games and puzzles are intrinsically interesting. It would take some time to formulate a game for a composition course, although the Ann Arbor District Library System has created an online game as part of their library system. What sort of game could it be? A mystery novel incorporating research to make an argument? In place of a game, could a wiki be used to write such a novel?

Puzzle solving is a little easier to arrange. Perhaps an ethnographic approach to writing that compares how professor and student languages resemble each other, and how they don't, when making an argument. Along these lines, I'm still looking at Graff and Birkenstein's book They Say / I Say that I mentioned in an earlier post. Or perhaps it's as simple as making the familiar unfamiliar by using classical rhetoric to analyze students' ways of arguing. Or perhaps a combination of the two. Or ...?

Recently, several people have agreed with my claim, "Confusion is the beginning of learning," but disagreed with "Satisfaction is the end of learning." (See "Thoughts" in the sidebar.) One considered satisfaction to be the reward of learning, and thus the motive to continue learning. Another said that satisfication leads to exploring new avenues of knowledge and learning. They and one other considered the second claim to be negative; that is, dissatisfication, a negative term, is not appropriate for approaching learning, a positive term. After all, how many people enjoy being in a state of discomfort?

I imagine that they are referring to the sense of pleasure, a hormonal high, that results from accomplishment, whether overcoming some struggle or solving a puzzle. That pleasure can enable one to struggle and work through some confusion again, which can lead to "exploring new avenues" of learning.

Satisfaction for me, however, indicates a state of equilibrium rather than a sense of pleasure.

Learning from a radical constructivist, or Piagetian, perspective occurs through the interactive processes of assimilation and accommodation. Assimilation is the adding of new knowledge to old by “reduc[ing] new experiences to already existing sensorimotor or conceptual structures” without changing the structures; accommodation is the modifying of old knowledge to accommodate the new or the creation of new cognitive structures, patterns of thought, and behavior. Accommodation occurs when new experiences that cannot be reduced to existing experiences create a perturbation that, leading to reflection on the situation and activity, may, in turn, cause either a change in prior cognitive structures or the creation of a new schema (von Glasersfeld, 1995b, p. 63). Both assimilation and accommodation, individual in nature and based on experience, are driven by the process of equilibration, a process of self-regulating the mental tension between the two, between internal mental states and external reality.

From the viewpoint of activity theory, learning is a process driven by contradictions, contradictions in the activity of learning between students and institutional influences or between classrooms and other activity systems. To learn and develop means to resolve or transform these contradictions (instead of merely shifting them elsewhere) at individual and system levels. In other words, learning means that one cannot be satisfied with the status quo.

From a third theory, complexity theory, adaptation, and I include learning, requires an organism to be on the edge of chaos, where forces of order and disorder interact in a balanced way. Satisfaction would be a force of stability in this model, and confusion, a force of disorder. Complete confusion would be disruptive to learning, as would be total satisfaction. Complete confusion brings anarchy, while total satisfaction with the status quo has no motivation to change, to learn.

From these theoretical perspectives, satisfaction cannot lead to learning. Then, again, neither can too much confusion. Rather, learning is recursively driven by the desire for satisfaction (or equilibrium), a desire once reached, leads to new dissatisfactions, and thus more learning. Pedagogically, then, instruction must keep students balanced on the edge of dissatisfaction with their present state of understanding.

On Tuesday at the NJTESOL-NJBE Spring Conference, I presented on different pedagogical strategies for helping English language learners improve the grammar in their writing.

After I brought up the importance of hedging in academic writing, one participant stated that in high school, they taught students to take a position and argue for it strongly rather than allow for any uncertainty or for the possibility of other positions having some validity. I imagine that state testing requirements lead naturally to this style of writing. However, it creates problems for students when they enter the university. Although I'm not against testing or accountability, such a situation shows that standardized testing has a strong influence on pedagogy and also that influence is not always a desirable one. As I mentioned in another post, "Let us make education in our image, says business",

present methods to measure accountability end up in dumbing down instruction and damaging student learning, as shown clearly in George Hillocks' The Testing Trap: How State Writing Assessments Control Learning, and that disturbs me.

On Wednesday at the NJTESOL-NJBE Spring Conference, I presented an overview in blog format of different web 2.0 tools for enhancing classroom instruction (i.e., blogs, wikis, RSS, Flickr, social bookmarking, and podcasting). I plan to keep it up on the Internet as a website (not blog) resource. You can find it here, grandiosely entitled "The Web 2.0 Classroom".

American Eagle Outfitters has selected the six winners for their nationwide "Live Your Life" Contest for teenagers and young adults:

Leading lifestyle retailer American Eagle Outfitters today announced the winners of its highly successful "LIVE YOUR LIFE" contest, a program that encourages young adults around the country to achieve great things by following their dreams. Now in its second year, the contest awards each winner $25,000 to help make his or her dream a reality.

Kicking off last January, AE's contest attracted over 20,000 entries from individuals looking to fulfill their dreams, more than four times the number of applications received last year. Visitors to AE's Web site -- 4.7 million of them -- voted online to select six winners to bring their essays to life and make a difference in the world.

All six winners are amazing. To see them, their essays, and videos, visit the American Eagle "Live Your Life" site. And one of them, Elizabeth Torres, is not only an immigrant to the U.S., but she is also a student at Kean University!

Miss Haley retires at the age of 89 after teaching 69 years (Margaria Fichner, "Teacher putting down her pen after 69 years", Miami Herald), all but two of those years at Lakeland Senior High School, where she herself once went to school. She's never been late and has taught around 13,500 students.

Here are some thoughts from Miss Haley:

she believes that life is a series of little joys.

She believes it is a long string of choices, that each choice exacts a consequence, and if you choose to say something naughty on the video being shot for your retirement party, you must be genteel when the editor calls your bluff and lets you spill these spicy beans: ``I love being with the children. . . . That's my whole life every single day, but when I come home, then I'm ready to close the door, take off my clothes and run naked through the house.''

Here are some quotations from her students:

'She doesn't just teach you about English, but she teaches you about life,'' says senior Tori Harvey, whose mother once sat in this classroom, too.

''She just lets you know that you are special,'' says Robin Harris, class of 1987, who named her 11-year-old daughter Haley, because, ``when you're in high school, you don't really know which way you're going. She just made me interested in school again. She made it exciting to learn.''

"I never forgot her.''

"I wish I could take her to college with me.''

I hope I can become that sort of teacher.

As someone who is color-blind, I love Well-Styled.Com's Color Scheme Generator 2 (via Cyberdash) that can "create good-looking and well balanced and harmonic web pages" and shows how color combinations are perceived by color-blind people.

From the Deloitte website:

According to a report launched today by Deloitte, the business advisory firm, by 2010 more people around the world will use a growing number of technology products and services more often, in more locations, and for more purposes than ever before.

Although the report says the teacher of 2010 won't be replaced by technology, it also states,

The best teachers may have become global 'brands by 2010, thanks to advances in connectivity. This elite group may be lecturing to a collective class of thousands, using a combination video, conferencing, streamed audio and podcasts as well as the traditional lecture theater.

The elite are already online:

"Stanford University is making hundreds of Stanford podcasts available free to anyone through Apple Computer's popular iTunes Music Store. The podcasts include lectures by the university's professors." (Chronicle of Higher Education, cited at "Present")

Harvard professors, too, are podcasting via iTunes (Lulu Zhou, "Harvard Offers Course via iPod", The Harvard Crimson)

And forget the thousands. It's millions. Ken Carroll, at his site, "plans to deliver language learning to millions through podcasts, cutting out teachers and classrooms (Glyn Moody, "Now you're speaking my language", Guardian). Like Stanford and Harvard, ChinesePod—along with JapanesePod101, TOEFL Podcast, ESL Pod, and many others—are available free via iTunes.

One potentially good thing about online resources for learning languages is that they are scalable: There's no need to progress according to an entire class, semester by semester, year by year. Instead, one can progress at one's own pace, as fast or as slow as one has time to expend on learning. And it's not clear that teachers and classrooms will be bypassed, but rather, their form and activity will change. Teachers might become more like coaches: supporting, advising, and fine-tuning students' language learning.

Another advantage is that huge pools of resources can mean a huge variety of topics that appeal to all students' interests, facilitating their persisting in language learning.

Perhaps the best advantage is the social interaction. From the article on ChinesePod:

There is also a formal Chinesepod blog, and a wiki, where users are invited to contribute entries related to Chinese and China. Every part of the site encourages users to join the conversation. "We obsess to feedback: what are the users saying, what do they want, what are their problems," Carroll says.

All this feedback is pored over by the 30-strong production team, who use it as the basis for future daily podcasts. After the scripts are written, and the premium exercises generated, Carroll and his co-presenter, Jenny Zhu, record all the podcasts for the week, each in a single take. "We even leave in mistakes because it's more natural, it sounds warmer," he says.

The next stage of Chinesepod aims to put the user more firmly in control thanks to another Web 2.0 idea: content tags. "Say you were going to visit China in six months on business," Carroll says. "You could come in, test, find your level, and say: I'd like business-oriented lessons for an elementary [user]." Creating a customised curriculum will be possible thanks to the modular form of Chinesepod, which consists of self-contained podcasts, each dealing with one topic and lasting about 12 minutes.

This sort of interaction can fully involve learners and provide quick feedback promotes interest, commitment, and thus learning. Moreover, this is a good example of a process technique of education. In "Coping with complexity: educating for capability" (British Medical Journal), Sarah Fraser and Trisha Greenhalgh, two professors of health care, apply complexity theory concepts to educating for capability (a concept similar to autonomy) as opposed to educating for competence. They define the two terms as:

Capability is more than competence

Competence—what individuals know or are able to do in terms of knowledge, skills, attitude

Capability—extent to which individuals can adapt to change, generate new knowledge, and continue to improve their performance

Summary points for their article are:

  • Traditional education and training largely focuses on enhancing competence (knowledge, skills, and attitudes)
  • In today's complex world, we must educate not merely for competence, but for capability (the ability to adapt to change, generate new knowledge, and continuously improve performance)
  • Capability is enhanced through feedback on performance, the challenge of unfamiliar contexts, and the use of non-linear methods such as story telling and small group, problem based learning
  • Education for capability must focus on process (supporting learners to construct their own learning goals, receive feedback, reflect, and consolidate) and avoid goals with rigid and prescriptive content

Note especially the authors' last point that supports ChinesePod's approach on having blogs, wikis, and tags with which learners construct their own learning and receive feedback in a process that focuses on and promotes the emergence of learning.

This is only the beginning, and I can't imagine the end.

Amit Paley ("Homework Help, From a World Away: Web Joins Students, Cheap Overseas Tutors", Washington Post) writes on the thousands of students who are accessing tutors in other countries via the Internet. The rhetoric for and against is interesting:

"We don't believe that education should become a business of outsourcing," said Rob Weil, deputy director of educational issues at the American Federation of Teachers. "When you start talking about overseas people teaching children, it just doesn't seem right to me."


Teachers unions are vigorously lobbying for legislation that would make it more difficult for overseas tutors to receive No Child Left Behind funds. Weil, of the American Federation of Teachers, said after-school tutors should be required to pass the same rigorous certification process as public school teachers.

"Quality control doesn't end at 3 o'clock when the school bell rings," he said. "If you need a highly qualified teacher in school at 2:59, you should have a qualified teacher as a tutor after school at 3:01."

In response, Burck Smith, CEO for Smartthinking, an online tutoring company, states:

"We can do better service, more consistent service, and at a better price."

Smith says he believes that eventually schools will outsource their office hours, review sessions and other aspects of instruction to teachers that might be located anywhere in the world. Right now, about 20 percent of Smarthinking's 500 tutors are in countries such as India, the Philippines, Chile, South Africa and Israel.

"This is no different than what happens in any industry. Labor gets stratified," Smith said. "And that leads to the democratization of education, because the lower prices for tutoring means the rich and poor can access the same services."

The arguments against educational outsourcing appear to be two: quality control and it's not right. The arguments for appear to be democracy, and it's better and cheaper.

All of these, even if true, are red herrings. Take the quality control argument, for example.

In an hour-long session that cost just $18, the Indian tutor, who said his name was Mike, spent an hour walking Del Monte through such esoteric concepts as confidence intervals and alpha divisions, Del Monte recalled. He got an A on the final exam. "Mike helped me unscramble everything in my mind," the 20-year-old said.

It's highly unlikely that Del Monte (or other students or their parents) would continue to pay $18-20/hour if he had not "unscrambled" those concepts and done well on the test.

The real arguments, as usual, are power and money: Who controls education? Who gets the NCLB money? These are serious and important issues. As a U.S. educator, I'm biased: I lean toward supporting our educational system and keeping the money at home. Still, I would like to see better rhetoric than a fictitious quality control and "it's not right."

These sorts of arguments remind me of an essay I read last week by Dorothy Sayers, "The Lost Tools of Learning" on a not-yet-in-operation website named "Tools of Learning." Presented at Oxford in 1947, Ms. Sayers said:

Has it ever struck you as odd, or unfortunate, that today, when the proportion of literacy throughout Western Europe is higher than it has ever been, people should have become susceptible to the influence of advertisement and mass propaganda to an extent hitherto unheard of and unimagined? Do you put this down to the mere mechanical fact that the press and the radio and so on have made propaganda much easier to distribute over a wide area? Or do you sometimes have an uneasy suspicion that the product of modern educational methods is less good than he or she might be at disentangling fact from opinion and the proven from the plausible?

Have you ever, in listening to a debate among adult and presumably responsible people, been fretted by the extraordinary inability of the average debater to speak to the question, or to meet and refute the arguments of speakers on the other side? Or have you ever pondered upon the extremely high incidence of irrelevant matter which crops up at committee meetings, and upon the very great rarity of persons capable of acting as chairmen of committees? And when you think of this, and think that most of our public affairs are settled by debates and committees, have you ever felt a certain sinking of the heart?

And she ended with:

What use is it to pile task on task and prolong the days of labor, if at the close the chief object is left unattained? It is not the fault of the teachers–they work only too hard already. The combined folly of a civilization that has forgotten its own roots is forcing them to shore up the tottering weight of an educational structure that is built upon sand. They are doing for their pupils the work which the pupils themselves ought to do. For the sole true end of education is simply this: to teach men how to learn for themselves; and whatever instruction fails to do this is effort spent in vain.

To move past the rhetoric of outsourcing or any other issue, people must be able to learn for themselves. But how do we teach people to learn for themselves? What does it mean to learn for themselves? Is that "critical thinking"? Many "scholars" are good are critiquing positions other than their own, but not so well their own position. Somehow learning for oneself needs to include an attitude of learning, not treating any partticular position as sacrosanct, even one's own.

An attitude of learning, I'm thinking, needs to be joined with an attitude of respect toward and concern for others. Such an attitude can open one up to other perspectives instead of clinging to one's own position (see my post "Experts predict no better than non-experts"). I'm not sure attitudes can be taught. They seem to be more like viruses that get caught.

The Senate voted to make English the "national language" of the U.S. (Jonathan Weisman and Jim VandeHei, "Senate Votes English as "National Language", Washington Post).

It's not quite clear what this means. It seems current laws for multilingual services can remain in effect. The Language Log blog has several posts looking more in depth (with links to other articles) at what it all might mean: What does "offical mean?, English: official, national, common, unifying, or other?, and Senate votes for official English.

From the Washington Post article:

"In my view, we had it watered down enough to make it acceptable," said Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), one of the chief architects of the immigration bill.

I'm reading into this statement, perhaps more than I should, but questions that come to my mind are, Why is it that things need to be "watered down"? Why is politics a matter of competing factions rather than of people seeking the common good?

Not really liking the site design from yesterday, I've decided for a lots-of-whitespace-is-better look, at least for now. Items still needing work are the footer, the extra white space under the sidebar, the About and Contact pages, and my RSS feed.

On the footer, Mark Bernstein, Tinderbox's creator, thoughtfully emailed me some ways to keep the year and months on the same line. The simplest method is just to maintain the archive lists myself instead of having them generated automatically by Tinderbox. I'll probably end up doing that way, as it's fairly straightforward and easy, but for someone as absent-minded as myself, I may at times be a month or two behind.

On the extra white space, there should be a way to have the posts lower than the last element in the sidebar to extend to the right margin. Sounds like an "if-then" condition from my one fortran course in 1984. But two decades and several languages later leaves me in a fuzzy, even a non-memory, condition of being unable to write an appropriate "if-then" condition.

At the bottom of my concerns is the lack of proper formatting for the footer on the About and Contact pages. Of a little more concern is my RSS feed: Unlike the Atom feed, the RSS feed doesn't validate, although it does work with NetNewsWire. Perhaps I can fix it after my presenting next week at the New Jersey Writing Alliance Conference and NJTESOL-NBJE Spring Conference

If anyone has suggestions, I'd appreciate an email.

Due to logistics, Tinderbox weekend is being moved to September 30 (or perhaps October 28), but Mark still held an informal discussion for those wanting to attend on Saturday. And it was great!! My understanding improved on quite a few topics, such as debugging, importing, exporting (even to MS Word), exploding text, attributes, aliases, agents, and so on. Of course, it's still a rather shallow understanding, I'll need to start playing with these items to make that learning real. Right now I'm looking at changing my footer. I'm also playing with the CSS in my blog design. I've changed the background colors and fonts. I'm not satisfied with it, but it's a good beginning in confusion.

Although I said I was slowing down, I can't pass up this news. On Monday, Kean University signed an agreement with China to establish the first U.S. university in China ("Kean University and Beijing ratify plan for campus in China" by Kelly Heyboer and Deborah Howlett, Star-Ledger).

Kean University President Dawood Farahi and a Chinese education department official signed a flurry of documents at a formal ceremony on Kean's Union Township campus. They were surrounded by high-ranking Communist Party officials who made the 7,000-mile trip from Zhejiang, the province where Kean University-Wenzhou will open next year.

What an opportunity for intercultural and educational exchange!!

My posts will slow down, perhaps become non-existent for the next few weeks. Right now, I'm finishing up grading for the semester. My schedule for the next few weeks is:

Once my commitments slow down, I hope to post on some of these experiences.

Another story by Idries Shah, this one in the children's book The Old Woman and the Eagle, continues the theme that people are chained by their experiences, which shape what they see. In this story, an eagle lands in front of an old woman:

The old woman took a long, hard look at the eagle and said, "Oh my, what a funny pigeon you are!"

She figured he was a pigeon, you see, because although she had never seen an eagle, she had seen lots of pigeons.

"I am not a pigeon at all," said the eagle, drawing himself up to his full height.

"Nonsense!" said the old woman. "I've lived for more years than you've got feathers in your wings, and I know a pigeon when I see one."

Judging by one's experience fits in well with John O'Neil's article "Adults' Differing Perceptions Make It Hard to Read Johnny":

A mother, a father and a teacher sit down for a conference. A question soon arises: Are they talking about the same child?

It may not seem so. Several studies have found that evaluations of students by parents and teachers overlap on less than a third of the measures, a "pretty low" rate of agreement, said Timothy R. Konold, coordinator of research, statistics and evaluation at the University of Virginia's Curry School of Education.

Educators have generally assumed that the teacher is right, with some justification, Dr. Konold said. "Teachers have a whole classroom of kids to use as a standard" for assessing behavior, he said, "and can compare them with others."

But a new study by Dr. Konold concluded that parents and teachers focus on different aspects of children, with teachers more attuned to external behavior and parents more sensitive to emotional states.

Hmm. So, how do students and teachers focus differently with respect to achievement?

Richard McManus of the Read/Write Web has a list of lists on things web2.0.

I mentioned this back in December, but it's worth repeating. Dave Munger ("High IQ: Not as good for you as you thought", Cognitive Daily) reported on some research by Angela Duckworth and Martin Seligman that investigates the question,

Could a more robust measure of self-discipline demonstrate that it's more relevant to academic performance than IQ?

To address this question, Duckworth and Seligman conducted a two-year study of eighth graders, combining several measures of self-discipline for a more reliable measure, and also assessing IQ, achievement test scores, grades, and several other measures of academic performance. Using this better measure of self-discipline, they found that self-discipline was a significantly better predictor of academic performance 7 months later than IQ.

As Munger comments, "Most impressive was the whopping .67 correlation between self-discipline and final GPA, compared to a .32 correlation for IQ." That's certainly impressive.

Self-discipline, of course, means that students spend more time on task. From this perspective, John R. Anderson's ACT-R model of learning supports the stance that self-discipline is important. ACT-R is a theory of how people think and learn.

The original ACT (Atomic Components of Thought) model was the one that posited the different types of knowledge, declarative and procedural. Anderson and Schunn's article "Implications of the ACT-R learning theory: No magic bullets", as the title suggests, asserts:

the ACT-R theory makes it clear that there is no magic bullet that allows some way out of these enormous differences in time on task [between 9th grade students in Pittsburgh and in Japan]. For competences to be displayed over a lifetime, time on task is by far and away the most significant factor.

This perspective is a crucial one for language learning. Many try to speed up language acquisition through various strategies such as mnemonics. As the article states:

There has been a long-standing strand of research in human memory looking at the advantage of mnemonics and various memory-enhancing strategies in terms of learning material. Such mnemonics strategies have been recommended for domains as far ranging as foreign vocabulary learning and learning of chemical formulas. However, the important thing to recognize is that these techniques speed the initial acquisition of the knowledge. Speed of the first steps on the learning curve becomes insignificant if ones goal is long-term possession of the knowledge. Such mnemonics drop out with practice and the critical factor becomes, not saving a relatively small amount of time in initial acquisition, but rather investing substantial amounts of time in subsequent practice. It is not clear that there is anything to be saved in subsequent practice by use of mnemonics.

In other words, practice makes perfect--not learning gimmicks.

So, for Munger the question becomes, How (if we can) teach self-discipline? For me, the question becomes, How can we foster an environment in which self-discipline is the norm?

From DomainInformer, "Educators Rate MarcoPolo 'Best Site' for Free Lessons and Materials".

MarcoPolo has been rated the top free Web site for downloading educational material to use in the classroom, according to a survey conducted by Edutopia Magazine. The site,, is a partnership among leading educational organizations and the Verizon Foundation. Voted the "best site to download free lessons and material," MarcoPolo beat out other well-known education Web sites including, Education World, PBS and Scholastic Teacher.

Gil Klein reports on the use of iPods in "Teachers Turn Nuisance into a Tool." In composition:

"The students are drawn in because they see the bells and whistles," said John Stewart, an English teacher at Gunston Middle School in Arlington County. "But it really helps them with their writing, basic logic and the fundamentals of composition."

Students eagerly stay after school to work with Stewart to create podcasts of their poetry, essays, and just the sounds of their lives. They mix music, sounds and words.

For English language learners:

The big advantage has been for English-language learners, Conner said.

The teacher creates a podcast of vocabulary words. The students download it into their iPods and can listen to it over and over. They can make their own recording of the words and compare their pronunciation to the teacher's.

Every week, students are given 20 vocabulary words to learn, Conner said. Before they used iPods, the students might on average learn 40 percent. Using the iPods, she said, they now average 95 percent.

Combining math and music:

"You can get material to students just in time at a level they need," he said. "They can go over the content again and again. And if you put math lessons to rap music, they can have fun."

iPod-toting students are in the Education Corral, facing off and learning their subjects.

Kathy Sierra has a more than timely post on "The Myth of Keeping Up". It's just not possible to keep up with the explosion of materials on pedagogy, research, and technology. Here are her categories for managing one's reading and "keeping up":

  • Find the best aggregators
  • Get summaries
  • Cut the redundancy!
  • Unsubscribe to as many things as possible
  • Recognize that gossip and celebrity entertainment are black holes
  • Pick the categories you want for a balanced perspective, and include some from OUTSIDE your main field of interest
  • Be a LOT more realistic about what you're likely to get to, and throw the rest out.
  • In any thing you need to learn, find a person who can tell you what is:
    • Need to know
    • Should know
    • Nice to know
    • Edge case, only if it applies to you specifically
    • Useless