A Note To The Digital Hoarders Out There: Slow Your Roll

I’ve got a little secret that will increase your productivity, help you better use your current digital assets, and even change the tone of how and why you use the internet.

Stop curating content.

The internet is full of two things—well, a bazillions things, but let’s call it two—information, and tools to curate that information. And for information and technology addicted educators, this is the formula for a digital version of Hoarders.

Pinterest, Diigo, Scoopit, Pearltrees, stumbleupon, Pocket, and even twitter and facebook all can be used as bookmarking tools, which is a fancy way of saying “save for later.”

Which is a well-intentioned lie.

You’re not saving it for later, you’re saving it because it has apparent value, and it’s free. This really hit home for me last week when I tried to “pearl” (save) a page for “future consideration” and it told me my tree was full.

Wha–?! Full? How is that even possible? 

Human Nature

By nature, we like to collect things. “Pin” them. Star them. Like and share them, a kind of brief applause, or as my brother calls it, a “technological grunt” that responds to something that piques our interest.

The challenge is a matter of need: most teachers have more resources than they could ever use in a lifetime, making their constant hunt for the next great app, learning platform, or social media tool akin to a self-righteous version of extreme couponing. But excess is worse than scarcity as it stifles, discourages, deadens, and chokes innovation. And once you get in these habits of “hunting” rather than learning, the tone of your technology use shifts, and tends towards technology abuse. Of course it never feels awful or overwhelming. At worst, you save things you can’t find, or end up with an embarrassing stack of emails or Evernote files that never see the light of day.

But bigger picture, you could be wasting an incredible opportunity to find the best thinking and resources that you can integrate into your classroom. It’s like going to a giant, bustling market and being so overwhelmed by all the “stuff” that you buy very little–or stand mesmerized and paralyzed by the choices. Teaching, I don’t have to tell you, is an incredibly demanding profession, and many of your colleagues likely shun technology for this very reason–fearful of the time demands meaningful adoption might place on all already strained schedule.

Technology Golden Era?

Though technology will certainly evolve, this may one day be considered the golden era of technology—a time charged with excitement of product releases (iPhone 5), operating system upgrades (Android Ice Cream Sandwich), and almost weekly releases of incredible new platforms (Learnist). But we can also be victims of our own success: so many great pieces of hardware, such innovative software, and so many emerging toys from blogs and learning boards to smarter social media networks an evolving eLiterature that we momentarily gag.

For a half-decade or so.

Our challenge then is evolving our thinking patterns—and adoption urgency–in light of this tremendous, unprecedented access.

None of this is to say that you’ve got to stop finding cool stuff that’s better than what you’ve got. And saving said cool stuff is also not a crime. But if you spend more time hunting than using, looking than integrating, discovering than creating, you may need to reverse the river’s current and reevaluate how and why you use the tools at your disposal.

This is not an either-or dichotomy. Overwhelming tech use, or no tech at all. There is room–and tremendous need–for an appropriate scale and pattern of technology adoption. Curating is absolutely a part of that. Hoarding, however, is not.

Save the pearltrees.

Recycle those pinterest boards.

Adopt a 4 week-delete rule: if you haven’t even thought about it (much less used it) in 4 weeks, delete it. Once a month, go pruning, no matter how valuable it all looks, and pitch it all.

You can always spend hours on Google finding it again.