Reflecting upon my information diet this week, I soon recognized the affinity spaces impacting my thinking, specifically the content, individuals, and organizations that related primarily only to each other. Recognizing a need to challenge my thinking, I aspired to balance my infodiet with the help of not just three new feeds, but three resources: peers, content, and something I’ll call “risky” organizations.
When I am struggling with aspects of instruction or motivation at work, or I simply need a change in perspective, I know who to contact. I tweeted three teachers from other grade levels in my district, as well as our associate superintendent, asking who they might recommend to push my thinking on Twitter. I also reviewed those they follow for ideas. Adding an Arlington fifth grade math teacher and the founder of a radical learning blog – individuals followed by those who I can depend on to push my own thinking- will, I believe, stretch me further via a ripple effect: one thought-provoking idea can spur along others.
I also sought to broaden my content horizons. As we so often do upon reviewing the past, I began to notice a trend: most of my feeds were geared primarily toward my major affinity spaces: technology integration and literacy development. I also had a number of greater-scale education organizations on my feed, such as Edutopia and ASCD. While these are both great resources, I know math is a growth area for me, so I decided to seek math-focused Tweeters to follow, in hopes of opening my thinking toward math practices implementation. Minutes after I began following NCTM and Republic of Math, “YummyMath” began following me! At the time of this writing, I don’t know much about YummyMath, but I certainly aim to add to my infodiet using creator Brian Marks‘s expertise, especially given the fact that he has over 13,700 followers. His adding me in such quick succession to my attempts to balance my infodiet with some quality math resources was quite an epic moment in PLN development.
To really push my boundaries, I also considered organizations with which I might fundamentally disagree but nevertheless might offer something to learn, as most education colleagues do. Upworthy founder and self-professed progressive Eli Pariser says: “I’ve always gone out of my way to meet conservatives..I like to hear what they have to say…I like learning a thing or two,” and discusses the need for the internet to “show us things that are uncomfortable, challenging, or important” (Pariser, 2013). I found his words insightful as I attempted to evaluate my own “filter bubbles,” searching for those that would stretch my thinking.
Exploring organizations like Teach for America and StudentsFirst was a huge cognitive shift for me. I wanted to be aware of Pariser’s observation that “The internet is showing us what it thinks we want to see, but not necessarily what we need to see” (Pariser, 2013). I felt a strong tension between not wanting to associate myself directly with these organizations and wanting to push myself to seek out the “nuggets” of truth and importance they might offer. As I began to assess this risk, the thought prompted me to wonder: To what degree do we stay reflective by pushing our thinking toward continuous improvement, and at what point do we relent upon reaching frustration level in light of something I’ll call “irreconcilable educational differences”? I do not yet have an answer for that, yet as I do with my students, I leave this as a walkaway question for now with the intent of exploring it further in the future.
Pariser, E. [2011, May 11]. “Beware online ‘filter bubbles.’ ” [YouTube]. TED Talks. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B8ofWFx525s#t=85
Ripple effect on water: Creative Commons licensing under Attribution 2.0 Generic license.