Our Own Private Kitchen Strainer

In his book Too Big To Know, David Weinberger makes this excellent observation about information filters,information overload

First, it’s unavoidably obvious that our old institutions are not up to the task because the task is just too large: How many people would you have to put on your library’s Acquisitions Committee to filter the Web’s trillion pages? We need new filtering techniques that don’t rely on forcing the ocean of information through one little kitchen strainer.

It may be obvious to Weinberger and others that our old expert-based systems for filtering information are no longer adequate, but not to the leadership here in our overly-large school district (and, I suspect, elsewhere in the American education system).

We have some very specific kitchen strainers that attempt to inhibit teachers and others from using most digital resources until they have been blessed by the right people. A process that often takes months, discourages most teachers from even making the attempt, and is roundly ignored by many.

Part of that process includes very small teams of specialists who spend a lot of time carefully collecting and analyzing resources for a list of approved instructional products, or writing and editing materials lovingly added to the “curriculum assessment resource tool”, our homemade database for “approved” instructional materials (and magic test generator). Everything, of course, must be filtered through the specific classification schemes for classifying the knowledge dispensed in the classroom, as established by the district or state.

Although this year a section was added to that database allowing teachers to share materials they’ve created, which is a step in the right direction, it has not been particularly popular.1 I suspect a large part of that is due to the fact that teachers who really want to share their work and ideas already have found much better tools available on the open web.

When presented with a choice, a rigid and very closed environment really won’t appeal to those educators who have already discovered the value of sharing in the world outside their schools.


  1. Teacher Share has about 230 items as of this writing, from 20000+ teachers in our district.

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