WHAT’S THE 411? Top resources for staying informed in the Information Age

October 16, 2017
by Peter Gow, ICG Executive Director
(A version of this post originally appeared in the ICG’s September 2017 newsletter.)

We live in the path of an endless information avalanche: news (real and fake), social media, the 24/7 phone, email whose content seems to be 50% spam. Every factoid you could ever care to look up is hidden inside a little Google search box. True or false? Important or trivial? That’s your problem.

And we’re told, especially those educators in the administrative wing, that the most important thing to be is informed, well informed. As educators we are more or less obliged to stay in touch with what’s going on out there on the cutting, even bleeding edge. How else will we find out about the latest in innovative practice or relevant research?

Not so long ago Independent School magazine and maybe a subscription to Education Week or The Chronicle of Higher Education would keep an educational professional as informed as we (felt we) needed to be.

That was then, but this is now. To follow every worthy educational Tweet-er (and sorry, @realICG is taken, although not by us) or read every relevant blog post would consume at least 37 hours out of every 24. We need filters to pre-select what gets our attention, and here are a few that I find really useful, with hotlinks to subscription sites:

  • THE BEST OF THE BEST. The weekly newsbrief on which I most rely to stay informed is THE EDUCATOR’S NOTEBOOK, curated by Peter Nilsson at Deerfield Academy. Peter combs the mainstream media, the education “trades,” and a whole lot of other sources like the Brookings Brief and The Hechinger Report to put together a weekly email that arrives on Sunday mornings and doesn’t require a trip to the store. (I have to make my tea at home.)
  • SOME OF MY GO-TOs. Although once upon a time I have been a newsbrief curator myself, I don’t pretend to have a comprehensive knowledge of the best sources. But along with grabbing onto The Educator’s Notebook and holding on for dear life in gratitude for Peter’s cornucopia of sources, here are a few sources (with links to the “subscribe” site for each) that are worth a subscription on their own for people interested in curriculum and education policy:
  • Inside Higher Ed, which will send a free daily digest your way that complements the Chronicle’s excellent but costly Academe Today and Re:Learning newsbriefs-cum-reportage without the Chronicle’s subscription-required paywall.
  • Education Dive, which can be kind of random but offers K–12 and higher ed newsbriefs.
  • ASCD SmartBrief, which does not require Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development membership.
  • It’s almost too sad to read in the current era, the United States Department of Education’ Office of Non-Public Education maintains a listserv that sometimes brings announcements from the DoE. And yes, there is such an office.
  • The National Association of Independent Schools weekly NAIS Bulletin contains a short newsbrief of its own as well as the Independent Ideas blog and other features. If you’re at an NAIS member school you can subscribe by contacting NAIS.
  • If your school is a part of the Association of Independent School Admission Professionals you can sign up its weekly newsbrief, The Funnel.
  • InspirED’s Daily Jolt is both a newsbrief and an idea source for marketing and communication professionals. Readers here know how much we stress smart, effective communication about innovative practice—independent curriculum above all.
  • Check out your favorite college newspapers on line. It’s good to know what the generations on whom we practice think about what we’re doing. I wish more K-12 school papers were accessible—and how cool and useful would an educator-focused newsbrief based on THOSE be? (If you know of one or are inspired to start one, please let me know.)

We would of course be happy to hear from anyone who has their own go-to news sources that help keep them up to date and add those to the list. (And of course we are ALWAYS interested in blog posts from anyone in any of our Partner Schools and Organizations—including student voices.)

Keeping up with what’s going on in our profession isn’t just an interesting hobby any more, any more than you’d want your doctor to stop reading medical journals. Our work, which was never exactly simple, is now more complicated than ever, a little side-effect of trying to do things better and paying attention to how others are trying to do the same.

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