Overload? by Bob Sprankle

Here's a constant thread that's been running through many conversations I've had with educators over the past month: Information Overload.

Now hang on a moment... it's not what you think. It's not about teachers complaining that too many things are on the proverbial "plate," or that there's yet another Web 2.0 Marvel that needs to be learned to reach the "Holy Grail" of good teaching, or even that they can't keep up with their email.

The conversations have focused on the perspective of the parent. The question I've been hearing can be summarized as:

"Have we overwhelmed our parents with too much information?"

For instance...

"District Blarney" (not its real name... and in fact, is a representation of numerous districts) decided years ago that every teacher in the district should be blogging. "Blogging = good!" We want transparency, we want a bridge between home and school, we want to give parents an "open window" into the classroom so they can see what's happening with the majority of their student's day.

So... teachers jump on board and start blogging up a storm. This goes so well, some folks decide to open up the classroom even more by putting GRADES online so parents can log in at any hour of the night or day and get information on how their student is doing.

This leads to Wikis and Moodles where actual lessons and handouts and resources are posted ---not only for students to access, but for parents to examine as well.

Next up: District Blarney creates its very own YouTube channel! Videos of outstanding and exemplary student work are showcased along with monthly "newcast" updates.

A Twitter channel is established for daily announcements.

A Facebook page is created in order to invite the community in for ongoing discussions concerning district committee work.

A SimplyBox account is made for "just in time" resources and links.

An AlertNow phone messaging system is purchased.

Messages from administrators are emailed home weekly.

... okay....

Let me be clear: I think every single one of these tools listed above are valuable and I would LOVE to have each (and even more!) for my own daughter, from her district.

But here's the rub... District Blarney started looking at the "stats" on web usage of all their sites, and it's dropping. Less people are accessing all this great content (remember: District Blarney is fictional and is a composite of many districts).

What's happened? Why aren't these great resources being used? Why are the numbers going down rather than up, with each new tool introduced?

District Blarney starts to wonder: "Have we over-inundated our parents with too much information?" Or, rather: "Have we asked our parents to go to too many places for information that it's become too overwhelming?"

The tools available for school-to-home communication and allowing transparency are plentiful and multifarious. They are constantly evolving and it seems the minute you commit to one tool, a better one suddenly emerges. A district's audience is also diverse and has varied preferences for favorite mediums for information.

Is there a danger of too much of a good thing? Do we weaken the message by providing too many mediums?

What does your district do? Do you provide a variety of methods for the community to access information, or is everything encapsulated in one central "watering hole?"

Thank you for offering up your stories, advice, successes and struggles in the comment section below.