This week in CEP 812, we are continuing our exploration of James Paul Gee’s book The Anti-Education Era: Creating Smarter Students through Digital Learning. Last week, we looked at the reasons why Gee feels humans are behaving less intelligently than in past generations. This week, we are reflecting on what we can do to help ourselves and our students become successful learners and humans.
In his book, Gee (2013) advocates for the use of affinity spaces for learning. He describes an affinity space as an informal learning space where a diverse group of people make use of tools and each other to learn about a common passion (pp. 175-177). While he supports the use of affinity spaces, Gee also recognizes that humans prefer meaning to truth (p. 133) which makes critical study of viewpoints other than our own essential. Eli Pariser’s 2011 book The Filter Bubble: How the New Personalized Web is Changing What We Read and How We Think also explores the importance of understanding viewpoints other than our own. Our task for this week is to create a more balanced InfoDiet for ourselves.
Over the past couple of years, I have created my own affinity space through Twitter. I follow educators who share my professional views. The themes of less testing, more creativity, social media in the classroom, technology integration and diverse perspectives dominate my feed. I believe my interactions with the people I follow has made me a better educator. These interactions keep me excited to go to work and has truly changed my practice. My library is filled with books recommended in my feed. My fourth and fifth graders are learning to blog based on what I have learned. My second graders are doing book review podcasts that we will be attaching to books with QR codes. I am advocating at all levels within my district for the new ideas and new tools that have been part of these online discussions. These people and their blogs are the cupcakes in my InfoDiet. Their commentary on education meshes with and enhances my own.
As I looked more deeply at my entire feed, I noticed this trend throughout. I have a lot of cupcakes, but no vegetables. I also know when I started narrowing my world. Respect for teachers is at an all time low everywhere, but I am a Wisconsin teacher living in a Madison suburb. I have been through the protests and the recalls and the divided families and broken friendships that resulted from Scott Walker’s Act 10. The stress of it got so bad that I cut out any sources of information that differed from what I needed to know to survive my daily environment. I created my own conflict-free internet to keep my anxiety levels down and my morale up. My assessment of my affinity group has led me to decide to add some veggies back into my InfoDiet.
This change is not going to be easy after hiding for five years. The first thing I did was resume following a couple of friends I had blocked because I did not want to confuse the politics with the person. The second thing I did was begin following @ConservTeachers and @EdPolThoughts on Twitter and add three new conservative teacher blogs to my RSS feed. These new additions to my InfoDiet will challenge my thinking on topics ranging from school funding to curriculum to teacher/student relationships. I hope they will help me balance my InfoDiet to the benefit of both me and my students.
Any feedback is welcome below. Thanks!
Gee, J.P. (2013). The anti-education era: Creating smarter students through digital learning. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.
Pariser, E. (2011). The filter bubble: How the new personalized web is changing what we read and how we think. New York, NY: The Penguin Press.