I have been a faithful blog reader and Twitter user for many years now. The network of educators, organizations, and news sources I’m connected with has impacted me in incalculable ways. I’ve learned new ways to use technology to make my life better, found ideas for my own classroom and ideas to share with the teachers I coach, and been challenged to think about many issues in new ways (by people I don’t always agree with, like Diane Ravitch and Adrian Dingle). I could not do my job as an instructional technology coach without these connections. I am able to create Minds, as both Henry Jenkins (2011) and James Gee (2013) discuss, as I connect my knowledge and experience with the other people in my network and the technology.
But as Nicholas Carr (2011) talks about, the wealth of new information coming from these networks can sometimes feel like a painful deluge rather than a joyful flow. I confess that I currently have 739 unread blog posts, and I haven’t actually read anything on my Twitter feed for at least a week. When I do have time to catch up, I often find myself just skimming the headlines. With constant access to limitless knowledge, it’s easy to see why we are prone to narrow our intake to just the content that makes us feel good and re-affirms what we already think. This cuts the flow of information to a manageable amount.
The danger in this is that our thinking isn’t challenged and we settle into what Gee (2013) calls affinity spaces, where the only things we hear are things we agree with. This leads us to think that everybody is on the same page, and that the issues we enjoy thinking about are the only issues that matter. To make matters worse, because companies like Google and
Facebook know so much about our preferences and habits, the information we’re presented on the internet is often filtered to our personal preferences (Pariser 2011). It’s like we’re eating “comfort food”, like grandma’s chicken and dumplings, all the time!
In CEP 812 this week, I was challenged to intentionally work against these powers by expanding my infodiet to include some healthy sources that bring balance to what I’m reading about online. Here’s a brief overview of the new “salad” of sources I added:
- Feed of posts tagged with “Game-Based Learning” on Edutopia: I added this source because, while researching Failure as a Learning Mode for my Wicked Problem Project, I have come across a lot of information about the benefits of gamification. I can see how games help students learn basic skills, but struggle to see how this approach can effect real, deep learning. This article by Andrew Miller clearly explains how a teacher could begin to organize game-based units in their classroom. I hope to learn more from the wide range of teachers writing about this topic on Edutopia.
- StudentsFirst blog & Twitter account: Students First is a pro-reform (pro-charter school) lobbying organization founded by Michelle Rhee. I am not opposed to charter schools, but they often throw the baby out with the bathwater and more effective change can come from within existing public school structures. Following this blog (which unfortunately does not have an RSS feed) and Twitter account will force me to think through the nuances of my stance as I’m confronted with new ideas about how to approach problems in the educational system. The article about potential LIFO policy changes and its link to NCTQ data comparing state policies is particularly interesting.
- Literacy Beat: This blog is a wealth of literacy instruction resources for all content areas. In the past, I have gotten frustrated by literacy initiatives that imply that literacy is more important than science content (or any other discipline). I didn’t become a science teacher so I could teach students how to read better: I want them to become scientific thinkers! There has to be a way to do both well. From this blog, I hope to learn new techniques to seamlessly integrate literacy into other classes. Bonus: this blog often includes tech-related literacy strategies! I loved this post about how driver’s ed classes created videos to explore multimodal literacy.
Just like with a food diet, I know that committing to this new diet over the long haul (rather than just going on a crash diet for a few days) will bring about the most change. After including these sources in my infodiet for a few months or years, I know that my views will probably soften, or at least be more thoughtful disagreements.
If you are reading this post but are not part of CEP 812, first of all, thank you for reading! And also, I hope that you will consider joining us on this diet to become healthier, more thoughtful, and more balanced in our information consumption!
And to everyone, including my CEP 812 friends, I want to challenge you to take it to the next level! As we are adding some healthy new info-food to our diets, what “junk food” can we cut out so that we have time to actually read closely, think about the new information, and do something meaningful with it? Personally, I’m trying to work up the willpower to unfollow Buzzfeed. But who doesn’t love a good “which Disney princess are you?” quiz every now and then?
Carr, N. (2011, July). The dark side of the information revolution. [Video File]. Retreived from http://bcove.me/7j4zpzwz.
Gee, J.P. (2013). The anti-education era : creating smarter students through digital learning. New York City: Palgrave Macmillan.
Jenkins, H. [DMLResearchHub]. (2011, Aug 4). Media scholar Henry Jenkins on participatory culture and civic engagement. [Video File]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZgZ4ph3dSmY.
Pariser, E. (2011, Mar). Beware online “filter bubbles”. [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.ted.com/talks/eli_pariser_beware_online_filter_bubbles/