I recently finished James Paul Gee’s book, The Anti-Education Era: Creating Smarter Students through Digital Learning, which focused partially on networked affinity spaces. Gee says “affinity spaces, at their best, are key examples of synchronized intelligence…multiple tools, different types of people, and diverse skill sets are networked in ways that make everyone smarter and make the space itself a form of emergent intelligence” (p. 174). He cites the Sims game as an affinity space. In this post, I cite my own affinity space: Twitter.
On Twitter, I follow hundreds of educators, legislators, techies and news outlets who are talking about education. After reading Gee’s book, I began to consider my affinity space more critically, and sought out additions that would broaden my perspective.
When scrolling through my newsfeed, I found that most of the articles I click through read like mini-research papers. Seldom did I scroll past a definitive view point, or an opinionated article. One could conclude that my Twitter account is so tech-heavy, and so 21st-oriented, I couldn’t even see the massive gaps in my network.
This had to change.
BEWARE THE FILTER BUBBLE
In his TED Talk “Beware Online ‘Filter Bubbles,'” Eli Pariser confirms what we were afraid of: yes, Google is reading our minds. He says that the customizations by many search engines (like Yahoo! or Google) are moving “us very quickly toward a world in which the Internet is showing us what it thinks we want to see, but not necessarily what we need to see” (Pariser 2011).
Step one in reinventing my feed was to simply consider, what do I need to see?
While I didn’t have an exact answer to this question, I did have a direction. I needed more polarized views, from the left and the right. I needed to differentiate my feed to see all of the colors of the rainbow, not just a stream of tech-conscious blogging.
To achieve this goal, I sought out several conservative newspapers. I found that Washington Post education writer @valeriestrauss is an opinionated, active tweeter. I additionally followed conservative @seanhackbarth who deems himself the “right-hand man of Newt Gingrich.” I felt it was important to add in a consistent voice that won’t mimic my own views. Finally, I decided to follow @charteralliance, a Twitter account that supports charter schools. I wouldn’t call myself “anti-charter,” however I actively chose not to seek out charter schools in my recent job hunt. I felt it was necessary to lend them a voice in my network.
In addition to enhancing my Twitter feed, I decided it was time to beef-up my hits in the blogosphere. In reflecting, it occurred to me that I follow very few international perspectives. To remedy this, I decided to follow Pasi Sahlberg’s blog on educational trends in Finland. Sahlberg is a Finnish educator who writes critically about reform and policy in education. Finland, known for boasting the highest ranks in education on the world stage, is one to follow.
All in all, my info diet allotted a healthy portion of technology, and several sides of universal design and learner-centric ideas. I didn’t realize, however, that I was missing my protein. I was missing the meat that not only laid out the issue, but that actually took a stand.
Gee, J. (2013). The Anti-Education ERA: Creating Smarter Students Through Digital Learning (First Ed.). New York, NY: Palgrave MacMillan.
Jenkins, H. (2011, August 4). Media Scholar Henry Jenkins on Participatory Culture and Civic Engagement [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZgZ4ph3dSmY&feature=youtu.be
Pariser, E. (2011, March). Eli Pariser: Beware Online “Filter Bubbles” [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.ted.com/talks/eli_pariser_beware_online_filter_bubbles
Geralt, Twitter Bird Globe Email Ball, 2014 via pixabay, Creative Commons License, CC0 Public Domain
Matti Mattila, Flag of Finland, Octover 4, 2008 via Flickr, Creative Commons License, Some Rights Reserved