Information Dieting 101

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west end non disable vegetarian” by “vancouver foodbank” is licensed under CC BY 2.0

This week in CEP 812 we considered the work of James Paul Gee, Henry Jenkins, Eli Pariser and Nicholas Carr to deeply reflect on networked spaces. One key learning is that if affinity spaces and participatory culture are used in appropriate ways, it has the potential to empower students and assist them in tackling complex global challenges.

So, how can we use networked spaces smartly? An important consideration is to integrate diverse perspectives in consuming information. Gee (2013) explains the importance of diversity: “in a healthy society, diversity is honored because diverse people and viewpoints serve the same purpose as variation does in evolution” (p. 117). Being removed from our comfort zones, separated from the opinions of like-minded people and exposed to challenging yet important views is another significant consideration (Pariser, 2011). Filter bubbles, described by Pariser (2011) as a “personal unique universe of information you live in online”, must be overcome to ensure we are not losing out on the opportunity to connect with others.

Finally, we must consider how to use a critical eye in consuming information. Failing to do so results in the loss of comprehension and deep creativity (Carr, 2011). The information diet implies that we moderate our intake of online information and use self-regulation to avoid information junk food. Online information should serve not to distract and overwhelm us, but rather to enhance our thinking and creativity.

I currently use a number of networked affinity spaces to inform my thinking. I find Twitter to be an extremely helpful network to keep up-to-date with the latest news, stories and insights from like-minded educators. I also use Feedly and Flipboard to receive articles on early childhood education, educational technology and inquiry-based learning. I am able to explore progressive approaches to teaching and learning and witness how educational concepts and theories, which I adhere to, are being put into practice in learning communities around the world. I can analyze these practices, compare it to trends in my own school, strengthen my own beliefs, and then share my thinking with others.

Having said that, I realize there are several limitations in my present information diet. Diverse perspectives in educational philosophies is a missing component of my affinity spaces. The one-sided views I follow may actually be problematic for my growth and thinking. Another limitation of my information diet is the weak critical focus that I carry out. Often, I choose to read articles with “catchy” titles, clever tweets or unique graphics. While such articles may contain important substance, I’m essentially creating a filter bubble for myself. I think adding analytical research articles from unbiased sources, such as university scholars, state institutions and non-government agencies, would contribute significantly to a more balanced information diet.

The three new sources of information that I have considered this week promise to push my thinking in new ways. The Office of Educational Technology (@officeofedtech) under the Department of Education incorporates insights on education technology from a broader, national level. The British Association for Early Childhood Education (@earlyed_uk) brings a cultural perspective to education slightly different what I am used to. The Montessori website presents a more structured approach to early childhood education contrasting the play-based approach I tend to favor. I believe these sources will not only challenge me, but allow me to draw connections between them and develop an appreciation for different ways of thinking.

References

(2011). Media Scholar Henry Jenkins on Participatory Culture and Civic Engagement [Online video]. DMLResearchHub. Retrieved February 1, 2015, from http://youtu.be/ZgZ4ph3dSmY

(2011). Beware online “filter bubbles” [Online video]. Ted Talk. Retrieved February 1, 2015, from http://www.ted.com/talks/eli_pariser_beware_online_filter_bubbles

(2011). The Dark Side of the Information Revolution [Online video]. The Economist. Retrieved February 1, 2015 from http://link.brightcove.com/services/player/bcpid57825992001?bckey=AQ~~,AAAADXaozYk~,BawJ37gnfAnGoMxEdQj_T9APQXRHKyAC&bctid=1128986496001

Gee, J.P. (2013). The anti-education era: Creating smarter students through digital learning. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

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