My Daily Media Diet
Over the past year, The Atlantic Wire has posted first-person accounts from journalists, political leaders, and authors about the media they consume each day under the topic Media Diet. Finding the pieces fascinating, I used The Atlantic’s model to catalog my own daily media diet. Since I always strive to create instructional environments that mirror real life, this piece is just another example of why digital writing (and reading) matters.
Each morning as the alarm clock sounds at 5:30, I roll over to switch it off and unconsciously grab my iPhone. In that moment I most often resurface into the world by checking three things – Facebook, The Weather Channel App, and email. I usually start with Facebook. I have a group of friends from the National Writing Project and the edtech community who live in the Eastern and Central time zones and I’m always curious to see what they have posted just a few hours before me. Plus I can see if my brother and sister-in-law in Germany have posted any photos of my nephews. Skimming Facebook also gives me an opportunity to see what comments and feedback I have received on any items I posted the previous evening.
Next, I hit email and as it loads I always say a little prayer that nothing pressing or inflammatory is in one of my three inboxes (personal email, work email, and spam email). That’s right, I actually pray for little more than the daily Groupon deal and the message from the Exchange server at work that my inbox is way too large. A scathing or demanding email can ruin nearly any morning. Finally, I press the Weather Channel App and check the hour-by-hour forecast. Will I need to dress in layers today? If it’s raining, I rather enjoy scanning the Doppler radar tab to see if any dark green or red blobs are heading towards Sacramento. Maybe we’ll have thunder and lightning!
After hopping out of bed and turning on the shower, I switch on the radio and listen to Capitol Public Radio, our local NPR affiliate. Morning Edition is really how I wake up. Donna Apadone and team brief me on the morning news as I shower and get dressed. My goal is to time it just right so that I can listen to the California Report, a segment produced by KQED, the Bay Area NPR affiliate, that has interesting stories, usually focused on Northern California. I used to listen to TV news in the morning, but I find the stories produced by NPR are much more informative and engaging.
Once dressed, I head downstairs and eat breakfast. With a cup of coffee and a bowl of cereal, I enjoy listening to the birds outside while reading the morning “papers” via my iPad. First I hit the New York Times and skim for the eclectic mix of topics I find interesting and relevant – politics, education, technology, science, and green energy. I usually read every story on the Most Emailed page of the New York Times App. More than likely, these will be the stories people are talking about. Next, I hit the Sacramento Bee and Los Angeles Times. Both of these are becoming increasingly irrelevant with fewer and fewer original stories, so I am able to skim them quickly, usually just looking for stories about my school district or state education funding and policies. Finally, I end with Flipboard, which has completely replaced Google Reader for me. Google Reader used to easily overwhelm me with way too many feeds, but Flipboard narrowed my focus. I review the Tech, Science and Learning, and Lifestyle feeds preprogrammed by Flipboard, but also read blogs and feeds I have added including EdWeek, Autoblog, the California High Speed Rail Blog, and any tweets from my Twitter network. Throughout all of my online reading I usually post a few stories or resources I think people will find interesting via Facebook, Twitter, or email depending on the intended audience. However, I allow myself to only post three items – I don’t want to overwhelm the masses. Anything I think will be useful for future projects I bookmark and tag using Diigo.
By 6:45, more often than not I am in the car and headed to my first school site. NPR accompanies my drive and I catch up on the remaining stories I may not have heard while getting dressed. On the mornings that require a high-energy start instead of news, I switch to the latest mix I have downloaded from iTunes or stream one of my favorite radio stations – Seattle’s C89.5, London’s Capital FM, or Germany’s Bayern 3 using the TuneIn Radio App on my iPhone.
As an instructional coach and staff developer, I prefer to start the day at one of my school sites. Usually I just hang out in front of the school, on the blacktop, or in the cafeteria talking to students about what they’re reading and how school is going. It’s how I get to know the students before appearing in their classrooms, while also allowing teachers to see me as fellow colleague who arrives at school before the sun has completely made its appearance. Many of our converations are centered around the media we consume – music, websites, books, social networks, movies, and television shows.
When I get to the office, around 7:45, the professional reading really begins. The inbox I have pretty much ignored all morning is now piled up with requests, ideas, and suggestions I have to process and respond to. Currently, I spend more time dealing with email than I would prefer. I feel email is pointless and overused. Someone recently told me, “your inbox is really everyone else’s priority – it’s the quickest way to lose focus of what you think is important.” That has really stuck with me the past few months. However, more often than not, I will take about an hour responding to the few dozen new emails I received since the previous evening before heading out to coaching appointments and meetings at various school sites.
Between meetings and school site visits, I spend on average only about a third of each day in the office. Most of my at-work reading includes books, magazines, and journal articles – both in print and online. All of these texts center on the topics of instructional coaching, leadership, technology integration, and content-area literacy instruction. I regularly read MindShift, Edutopia, Educational Leadership, Science Scope, and THE Journal. While I initially read many of these magazines in print form first, I almost always find myself eventually digging through each magazine’s online archive.
In terms of books, I am always reading three things – a professional text, a personal text, and an adolescent text. I began this pattern right after I started teaching. I wanted to continue to grow as an educator (professional texts), still feed my own interests (personal texts), and be able to have a conversation with my students about what they were reading (adolescent texts). Currently, I’m reading Leading for Instructional Improvement, Tomatoland, and When You Reach Me. My personal texts I almost always read via the Kindle App, but the professional and adolescent texts I prefer to read paper copies. That way I can mark them up (professional texts) or donate them to a student or classroom library (adolescent texts). I read pretty much every night from 9-10pm and it isn’t uncommon for me to switch between all three books in the same hour.
As for television, I will watch anything with a strong narrative, especially if it has an element of scifi or historical fiction. I love The Tudors, Game of Thrones, True Blood, Modern Family, and Falling Skies. Reality TV I just don’t understand, but I do love to veg out with a few episodes of House Hunters International. Which house will they choose? It’s great escapism! Interestingly, I find that I watch more and more television and movies on my iPad. With apps like Netflix, Hulu, HBOGo, and ABC, I find that it’s preferable to watch a show from anywhere in the house without having to sit through commercials.