Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Research Journal--Information Overload

I was reflecting yesterday on the fact that I'm feeling a certain level of paralysis about graduate school this semester. It's the first time I've ever taken two classes at the same time, and it's A LOT. I've been working full time as a teacher or school librarian ever since I began at SJSU SLIS, and things have always been busy. But this semester feels like things have ramped up, what with my one-year-old who seems to perpetually have a cold or be teething, more responsibilities and expectations at work, and the looming pressure of needing to finish my teacher librarian credential before funding for my current job disappears in two years.

All of this is fine--it's a lot, but I could handle it if I was organized. But my brain seems to be working in high gear constantly. I have had trouble focusing on any one task, and I think it might be because there are so many tasks on my plate that I'm having trouble staying focused. Maybe this picture of my desk at work can shed some light on the situation. Our family desk at home looks about the same.

 The calendar is because I was just recruited to be a new teacher support provider and the highlighted dates are trainings I have to attend. The book with the Golden Gate Bridge is the YA book from my library I just started, and the stack of books with Aviation on top are new books from Donor's Choose that I need to get students to read for photos and write thank-you notes for.

I'm taking 285 together with LIBR 233, the Learning Commons, with Dr. Loertscher. He is a staunch constructivist and in his class, we are supported but definitely left with things fairly open-ended. He doesn't use D2L so the information for my two classes is contained within two totally different systems. While I am adept at navigating both (and I respect and understand his rationale), it does complicate my work to constantly be visiting two different sites.

However, this is all logistics. The beauty of taking the two classes together is that my work in each is informing my understanding of the other. In particular, I'm expected to read and comment on/summarize approximately 100 articles for 233 over the course of the semester (a major contributer to the information overload). I am including in this 100 the articles I'm reading for this class, as well as some assigned reading and posts from about 10 related blogs that I follow. Yesterday, for example, I came upon an interview with Scholastic editor David Levithan, posted by Mary Ann Scheur, who is a classmate and becoming a friend. I know Levithan as an author who writes unique books on many themes, but often has gay male teens in his books. He portrays gay teens in a way that I have not seen in other YA literature, so I've definitely noticed him. For me, the big "aha" in his interview was his discussion of transmedia publishing, first the series/experience 39 Clues and now a new transmedia project from Scholastic called The Infinity Ring. I'm not sure how these have passed me by as an avid YA reader for the past five years, but now my eyes have been opened. Transmedia sounds to me (from what I know so far) a part of my dream of what education can and should be. I want to focus my research proposal for 285 on BYOD or at least 1:1 devices in the classroom. I love to use games and puzzles while I'm teaching, and so the idea of digital quests and games and other media just makes my brain start racing. After reading about the concept of transmedia, which was explained as using multiple platforms for telling a story, I immediately thought of my educational vision for what schools should be like. I believe that all schools should be rapidly catching up to the 21st century, this world where 6 million new iPhones are sold in the first three days after release. I think progress is crucial and  is a matter of survival for public schools, and I am also starting to pay more attention to online schools for K-12. They will need more teachers and librarians and information professionals who are tech-savvy and focused on modern technology and teaching techniques. This is the future, this is what's happening, and public education needs to keep up. I can see how kids are drawn to games and multi-media platforms, and I am, too! So much more exciting than static textbooks, and so much more fun to teach with, too.

I did a simple Google search on transmedia and education and found several articles. Laura Fleming has a blog entry on Edutopia.com, titled "A new model of storytelling: Transmedia." She says that two components must be present in transmedia: "1) Critical parts of the story must be told across multiple story spaces, and 2) there must be active participation on the part of the readers." Fleming states that these components can help engage learners, and that young people are accustomed to taking in information via multiple sources. She finishes by saying "Transmedia storytelling exemplifies learning in the 21st century." I agree with her point, and I think that transmedia is a great example of what could be done with a 1:1 device program in schools.

This is just one example of how my work in 233 crosses over into 285, and vice versa. What an amazing opportunity for an action research project this would be! (If we had wireless and handheld devices or even a laptop cart at my school.) There is always the future. On the other hand, this also exemplifies my issue with my scattered brain right now. I read the Levithan article last night at home, started investigating transmedia and education then, got interrupted by my baby waking up. I spent some time last night and this morning reflecting on why I feel unfocused and came up with the idea of information overload. I began this research journal entry 2.5 hours ago and over the course of the last 2.5 hours I've spent writing this, I've Googled "transmedia and education," read several articles on the topic, helped some students take a computer test, and supervised two passing periods. This year is an exercise in time management for me, and I clearly also need to be careful about creating an intellectual and academic focus so that I can get my work finished in a timely manner. But what an exciting and engaging semester it is turning out to be!

Fleming, L. (2011). "A new model of storytelling: Transmedia, August 26, 2011. Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/blog/transmedia-digital-media-storytelling-laura-fleming.

Greenfield, J. (2012). "Scholastic's hit-maker on Hunger Games, digital reading and transmedia." Digital Book World, August 24, 2012. Retrieved from http://www.digitalbookworld.com/2012/scholastics-hit-maker-david-levithan-on-hunger-games-digital-reading-and-transmedia/ 


  1. Allyson, I have really loved our growing connection. Transmedia products are fascinating! I still feel like there is so much I need to learn.

    Here's another article I found today:

    Annette Lamb also has an interesting article "Nurturing a New Breed of Reader" in Teacher Librarian, October 2011.

    I'm still processing what to make of all this!


    Mary Ann

  2. Mary Ann, thanks for your comment! I am really enjoying our growing connection as well. (I just left you a long comment on your blog.) We should be our own discussion group!!

    Thanks for these links. I love how much information is at our fingertips, and yet it's so hard to sift through it all. I'm sooo excited to read the transmedia article from ISTE, and I'll also look for the one in TL.

  3. Fantastic. It is so nice knowing that we're local and interested in similar issues. As you're doing your research, will you let me know if you find things that talk about how children read and process multimedia learning? I'm really interested in what happens when you see visuals, hear narration and read text. How that multiple input affects students' comprehension.