Great Idea – Personal Filter Map

I was just thinking my own version of this (via @librarienne RT) the other day, and I agree: having an established, well-vetted, but also organically evolving information filter system is important today.

In that spirit, here’s mine (less the nice graphic):

  • First line: RSS (via Google Reader) and Twitter (my Twitter feed is largely populated by professional connections, people I’ve met or run across who have similar professional interests to mine)
  • From there: Mark as Read (Jacobs’ trash can) or Diigo (for articles I read on my laptop and want to save and/or links that are mainly flash or video) or Instapaper (for more heavily text-based links that I need some quiet time to look over)
  • For Archiving/Saving: Both Diigo and Google Reader are searchable, and Diigo has a super-cool plugin (for me it’s in Chrome) that adds Diigo results to the top of any google.com search.  I’ve also just started using Evernote for notes in meetings/conferences.
  • For Sharing: I really like the idea of having a separate public feed (Jacob’s Tumblog) from which I can microcast to friends/followers, but I tend to share in a more targeted fashion via direct email or occasionally a tweet I’m pretty sure certain followers will find interesting.
  • For Writing: I have been hanging in (poorly) on WordPress like most people.  I resolved to use this sabbatical as an opportunity to share more about what I’m working on here, but it’s still hard to do.  (Maybe this and my Twitter habits are consequences of my introversion; who knows.)

I also agree with Jacobs that part of literacy/education today ought to be consideration of and practice with different options for filtering information.  It will help graduates to stay connected to a wider range of information sources and manage those connections more actively.

Taking that idea one step further, we can imagine what that education would look like.  I would start with First-years in our Freshmen seminars, asking them to seek out and begin following ten relevant feeds and ten individuals who work in or write about the seminar topic on Twitter, Facebook, and/or Google+.  I’d require them to write regularly, say weekly, on a personal blog, about something of interest to them from among those 10-20 feeds.  And I’d ask them to comment, via Twitter, Google+, or on each others’ posts about their classmates’ writing. (OK, this last one probably doesn’t teach information filtering as much as it encourages a sense of participation in an intellectual community, but it would be an important step in an iterative and experiential process I generally invite students to participate in).  Finally, each week, one or two students could be given the opportunity to discuss the flow of a single idea or meme through their personal system and its dissemination through the class network.

Would this sequence of events in a class setting encourage development of good filtering habits over time?  How should we continue it beyond the first year?  Could it be effectively appropriated earlier, say in high school or even middle school, and if so, how would that affect students entering college and the general citizenry?  

Sabbatical Style

I may be naive here, but I’m finding most of my colleague’s (and some of my student’s) expectations about my behavior during my sabbatical a little strange.  Well, let’s not call it strange; rather, it’s surprising to me in its vehemence and ubiquity.

Essentially, everyone I know who has any experience with the concept of a sabbatical, when running into me on campus for the first time since the end of the Fall semester, says something like “What are you doing here?!” or “You should be invisible!”  Even a student said to me this morning, “I didn’t think you would be, like, in the building this semester.”

Now, I know a lot, probably even most, faculty consider sabbatical one of those sacred affordances of tenure and a position in higher ed, and this is the reason why I’m getting such quizzical looks/responses to my presence.

But what I find strange is just the complete uniformity of it all, like small talk about the weather at a cocktail party.  I don’t think I have seen a single colleague in the past few weeks on campus who hasn’t made this kind of comment on seeing me on campus.  And it is this uniformity of response that has made me realize just how deep those expectations about sabbatical — what it is for and what faculty feel it exists to provide both psychologically and spiritually — run and how unusual my proposal of a more service-oriented sabbatical must have seemed to the committee who approved it.

In light of that, I once again am quite thankful I have landed here and that, in spite of the strangeness of my proposal, I have been allowed to continue as planned.  Still, I wonder about other faculty, both here and elsewhere, and the pressure that are likely to have felt, as I originally did before I received some good advice, to conform to this fairly singular idea of how to approach one’s sabbatical.  It is in this light that I continue to become aware of the deeply conservative nature of higher education, not in terms of politics, but in terms of its approach to itself: people in higher ed, I’m learning, are just as interested in conserving all the various aspects of the institution that has served them well as are the people of any other institution.  For some reason this never occurred to me when I was in school, on the flip side of the institutional divide, as it were.  But I see this more and more in my time as a faculty member, even though, as I’ve said, I don’t find it to impact actual policy in the same way my friends at other institutions indicate.

But I’m starting to wonder if I’m in the middle of a fault-line tension, one in which the pressures from each tectonic plate are slowly building.  How do we, or can we, prepare for something like that?

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