What to Read?

by Jean Tower

W hat should I be reading to stay informed, gather information from a wider variety of sources, and broaden my personal learning network beyond the edublogger community? This is a question that I drew from a recent post, De-Echoing My Reading Practice…Help Wanted , by Will Richardson.

"Still in the progress of rethinking my online reading habits…I’ve also been looking at different avenues to find the most interesting, most relevant stuff, and, most importantly, to shift my reading to include more diversity."    ~  http://weblogg-ed.com/category/connective-reading/

I have a couple of suggestions and they are both news digests of sorts. The first is the Marshall Memo , A Weekly Round-up of Important Ideas and Research in K-12 Education , compiled and distributed by Kim Marshall , former teacher, central office curriculum director, and Boston principal. This is an excellent digest and well worth the subscription fee. Kim reads 44 professional, mainstay journals (see list ) and pulls from other sources, as well. He chooses several articles every week to synopsize. His criteria for inclusion are thoughtful and vary from reviewing an old idea in a new light to practical information with real examples. On his web site you can read a more thorough explanation of how he chooses articles for inclusion.

I subscribe to the Marshall Memo because for a very small fee, I receive the services of a professional, designated reader, a well-respected educator with many years of experience in K-12 education. There is no way I have the time to read as many journals as Kim Marshall reads for me, and the journals cover a wide variety of topics and themes from policy to curriculum to professional development. This service really helps me to diversify my reading, in terms of topics, authors, and viewpoints. I find that reading “mainstream” professional education journals keeps me more in touch with what my less web-connected colleagues are thinking is important and broadens my own perspective. This service helps me select which articles to read in full, but also gives me a useful summary for those articles I don’t follow up on to read the full version.

The second news digest service that I endorse is the Public Education Network (PEN) Newsblast . Although, if you are going to subscribe to only one, my recommendation is the Marshall Memo. PEN Weekly Newsblast "is a free electronic newsletter featuring resources and information about public school reform, school finance, and related issues." To subscribe to the Newsblast, visit the main web page where there is a link to their RSS feed. This is also a good way to stay informed about mainstream topics in education, but I find that the vetting of articles included in the Marshall Memo fits my needs better.

Last, this is probably much too obvious for most readers of Will’s blog, but I also suggest subscribing to education topics through RSS feeds for the New York Times and NPR, for some of the same reasons to subscribe to the news digests mentioned above. I think that one difference between the digests and NYT and NPR is the intended audience. NYT and NPR are writing for the general reading public, while the digests are targeting readers from the education profession.

I read edublogs and visit wikis and am developing an online presence because these activities connect me to knowledgeable colleagues and allow me to create a strong personal learning network. The ideas and resources I encounter move me toward being a better Technology Director, and a better professional developer. The articles I read from PEN and the Marshall Memo help me connect my online learning to more topics of concern to educators. It is these connections that help me make progress in my own district. I advise Instructional Technology Specialists to really listen at school and to hone in to what the core curriculum concerns are in their building so that they can help teachers apply technology to those issues. For me, I try to apply the same principle on a broader scale, and these digests are a couple of the tools I use to gather information about these core concerns.

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