The Bubble has Burst! My Information Diet

Bubble Burst by Rodger Evens 2014 is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

Bubble Burst by Rodger Evens 2014 is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

“There always has been more human knowledge and experience than any one human could absorb. It’s not the total amount of information, but your information habit that is pushing you to whatever extreme you find uncomfortable.”
Clay Johnson

James Paul Gee in his book The Anti-Education Era, writes that “affinity spaces” are places of “synchronized intelligence” that combine “multiple tools, different types of people, and diverse skill sets” in a way that makes “the space itself a form of emergent intelligence. The sum is more than its parts; the collective is smarter than the smartest person in it” (Gee, 2013, p.174). I now see these affinity spaces as valuable sources of learning as well as a means of gaining expertise by interacting with the knowledge shared by others within the space. Whilst this is true and I can see the benefits of using affinity spaces as discussed by Gee (2013), as an administrator I must take off the ‘rose colored’ glasses and view all perceptions from aspects that both support and challenge my beliefs.

The first of the readings that both confronted and challenged some of my views on technology in education came from the blogs, Education Stormfront: Forecasting the coming storm in Education, and Debate.org. Both blogs discuss the fact that technology is moving too fast in schools and we are simply chasing technology for its own sake, instead of mastering its use in the classroom and applying it to achieve our desired goals? Westsyde principal, Sean Lamoureux, is quoted as saying, “I see the technology in the classroom as the wave of the future”. I can honestly say that I agree with Lamoureux (despite the fact that he was being quoted to show erroneous fundamental technology beliefs). I can, however, see the point made in the blogs that educators must be careful in their endeavors with digital technologies in the classroom. I found this thinking challenging because I too have focused on the technology rather than content and I can now see the need to ascertain why we implement certain aspects of technology. Gee (2013) discusses “freeze thought” (p.93), where we are sometimes afraid to take the next step, break down the barriers, move out of our comfort zone. The question we must ask ourselves is, who are we doing this for, ourselves or our students? I have always introduced technology for the students’ benefit, but after reading these blogs I question whether that is fully true or whether there is an element of chasing technology for my own and for the school’s gratification?

Eli Pariser’s TED talk (2011) discusses “filter bubbles” describing them as our own online personal universes. He goes on to discuss that it is important that we need a balanced information diet and if we don’t get this balanced diet then we are just surrounded by “information junkfood”. Just as in a dietary sense we cannot eat only what we ‘like’ we must also eat what is ‘good for us’, in a technology sense we cannot only engage with what is comfortable but must also be open to that which provides nourishment of thought for growth. After viewing Pariser’s TED talk (2011) and reading Gee’s (2013) chapter on Institutions and frozen thought, it struck me that Gee is correct and that, “We humans sometimes fear thinking – it might lead to results we don’t like – and, as we have seen, soothe ourselves with comfort stories” (p.93). It’s not that I fear thinking it is just that I like my comfort zone! But I cannot claim to hold an informed opinion if I only interact with those who agree with me.

While attending #Flipcon15 @flipcon15 at Michigan State University, I met and spoke with Jon Bergmann @jonbergmann, one of the founders of the flipped classroom and was truly inspired with this idea and the potential benefits for students. Although I believe in theory that flipping a classroom would have many benefits, I must take into consideration all the pros and cons of flipping a classroom before I introduce it into my school. While searching the internet I stumbled across a blog called, The Flip: End of a Love Affair posted by Shelly Wright @plpnetwork. Initially a strong advocate for flipped classrooms she has changed her opinion stating, “It simply didn’t produce the transformative learning experience I knew I wanted for my students”. Within this blog, Shelly provides valid reasons as to why she removed flipped lessons from her class. With my bubble now well and truly burst, this post made me stop and reconsider whether flipped classrooms would really benefit the staff and students at our school. Maybe a question for a ‘wicked problem’? Either way, the process of discernment is a good challenge for the introduction of any technology into a school.

In reading the blog talentlms @TalentLMS, I find myself having to critically re-evaluate my thinking on the use of digital media and elearning. I understand the theory and research behind elearning, but need to ask myself if this is the best way for me, or my staff, or my students to learn. Turrof (1995) puts forward the idea that, “Once we free ourselves from the mental limits of viewing this technology as a weak sister to face-to face synchronous education, the potential to revolutionize education and learning become readily apparent” (p.211). I have always been an advocate for elearning and have encouraged my staff to participate in elearning as part of their professional development. Yong Zhao (2015) @YongZhaoOU in his blog, A World at Risk: An Imperative for a Paradigm Shift to Cultivate 21st Century Learners discusses that, “Technology has advanced so much that it is a reality that one can learn anything, at anytime, with anyone, from anywhere”. The challenge that I face with the sheer volume of elearning is: Does it really work? Do our students learn better with constructivist learning (elearning) versus the traditional classroom?

In education, especially as an administrator who provides direction in education, we are constantly bombarded with the latest and greatest digital media available and what needs to be done to dramatically improve a school’s academic results. I can appreciate that to ensure the health of my infodiet, it is important to ‘burst the bubble’ and view all the aspects of given issues, not only those that sit comfortably with me. Gee (2013) states, Collective intelligence…allow people to be creative even when working on problems…do not always have clear-cut or rigorously testable answers” (p.179). This also applies to the infodiet. We have to be creative and open to alternative viewpoints in order to make fully informed decisions about educational direction and goals.

Resources:

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

Jenkins, H. (2011, August 4). Media Scholar Henry Jenkins on Participatory Culture and Civic Engagement. Retrieved January 30, 2015, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZgZ4ph3dSmY

Turoff, M. (1995). Designing a Virtual Classroom. International Journal of Educational Telecommunications, 1(2), 245-262. Charlottesville, VA: Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE). Retrieved August 1, 2015 from http://www.editlib.org/p/15162. (p.211)

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

Zhao, Y. (2015, April 6). A World at Risk: An Imperative for a Paradigm Shift to Cultivate 21st Century Learners[1]. Retrieved from http://zhaolearning.com/2015/04/06/a-world-at-risk-an-imperative-for-a-paradigm-shift-to-cultivate-21st-century-learners1/

Technology in the Classroom Is NOT the End Goal | Education Stormfront. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://educationstormfront.wordpress.com/2011/06/03/technology-in-the-classroom-is-not-the-end-goal/

Does Technology Move Too Fast for Schools? | Education Stormfront. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://educationstormfront.wordpress.com/2010/08/17/does-technology-move-too-fast-for-schools/

Johnson, C.A. (2011). The Information Diet. Retrieved from http://www.informationdiet.com/

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