My Current InfoDiet
My students would tell you that I was late to the Twitter party. For a long time I found it unnecessary, confusing, and beyond my social media ken. In the past two years, however, I have discovered the value in consuming content via Twitter and engaging in digital discussion with an extended network of educators. I quickly found bloggers and other educational gurus to follow and thought I was expanding my knowledge and affinity space with every retweet. It was not until recently, however, that I discovered that while I might be acquiring new ideas and information, those ideas were limited to concepts and philosophies with which I already agreed. I have always felt that student-centered learning and innovation were important to a classroom, so following Don Wettrick (@DonWettrick) and learning about Genius Hour or Peter Winick (@Peterwinick) and expanding my views on educational leadership was less about learning and challenging myself as an educator and more about confirming and adding to an existing belief system. While my current sources may give me great ideas and the inspiration to try new things in my classroom, I find that I am doing myself, my colleagues, and my students a disservice by ignoring sources with whom I disagree or struggle. One limitation that my current InfoDiet imposes on me is an inability to collaborate with colleagues whose educational philosophies may differ from my own. Spending too much time exploring my current InfoDiet has led me to consider my pedagogical choices as “right” or “better” and I run the risk of isolating colleagues who challenge my beliefs. My expanding my InfoDiet, I simultaneously expand my networked affinity space and my ability to be effectively collaborative with my colleagues.
Willing to be Disturbed
In order to expand one’s networked affinity space and engage in meaningful debate, there must be a certain level of willingness. A 2009 essay by Margaret Wheatley calls for our willingness to seek perspectives that differ from our own, acknowledging that, “we don’t have to let go of what we believe, but we do need to be curious about what someone else believes,” (Wheatley 2009, 34). The emphasis on willingness presented in this text, as well as the assertion that we cannot grow and learn if we only seek sources with whom we already agree, encouraged me to embrace the challenge presented by Gee and Pariser to extend my learning network and rethink what I consider to be a valuable resource.
Adding to my InfoDiet
From the time I downloaded Twitter and began following fellow educators, I avoided accounts linked to standardized testing or which emphasized standardization in any way. As I began to research the wicked problem of embedding innovation as part of the learning ethic in the classroom, my team and I discussed how a reduction in standardized testing and standardization could lead to increased innovation. I realized, however, that I was unable to fully articulate the counterargument in this case–just as I see value in decreased standardization, others can argue the necessity for standardization and shared expectations across the country. In order to gain a more well-rounded view, I followed the official SAT Twitter page (@OfficialSAT). What I discovered in exploring their Twitter page is that they are able to argue that standardization may lead to equity in education and access to higher education for those in low-income school districts. Although it is unlikely that I will be leading the charge for increased standardized testing this year, I certainly leave with a better ability to explain the SAT and its features to my students and to engage in more meaningful debate with fellow colleagues and administrators.
Another area of education that I have struggled with is the connection between test scores or achievement and teacher employment or pay. I am categorically against connecting employment or salary to a third-party’s idea of achievement, but I have also been forced to acknowledge that I teach in an area with better access to resources and (likely) more equitable access to education than most. In order to better understand the other side of this story, I followed Michelle Rhee (@Michellerhee) who advocates for education reform involving employment attached to achievement. Although I am no closer to agreeing with her, I am able to acknowledge her ideas and opinions, and see value in her end goal. She and I agree that students should have equal access to education and that our public education system has its faults. By engaging in meaningful discussion with my ‘educational opponents,’ I not only expand my knowledge base, but also have the potential to be a more collaborative, well-rounded individual. When I am willing to be disturbed, I am better able to serve my students and educational community as a whole.
Gee, J. P. (2013). The anti-education era: Creating smarter students through digital learning.
New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.
Pariser, E. (2011, March). Beware online “filter bubbles” Retrieved from
Wheatley, M. J. (2009). Turning to one another: Simple conversations to restore hope to the
future. San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler.
“Please Disturb Me” by Murtada al Mousawy is licensed by CC BY-NC-SA 2.0