We all spend a lot of time on the Internet, whether it is for work, for entertainment, for communication, or for new information. We have all gotten so accustomed to using the Internet; it is now a common phrase to “Google it!” when you don’t know a fact or how to do something. Have you ever stopped to think about what exactly you do on the Internet? What exactly are you searching for? Are you using the Internet to its potential? How does the Internet affect what you view and learn? Is the Internet opening you up to new ideas and viewpoints or closing you off to only viewing webpages that are relevant to you and what you believe in? For class this week, we finished James Paul Gee’s The Anti-Education Era and watched a few videos about how we could use the Internet a little differently.
“Unless we take some books or some digital media further in terms of persistence, problem solving, connection making, skill building, production, and critique, they will not, in the end, really make us any smarter” (Gee, 2013, p 203). Anyone who uses the Internet (so, everyone I know – yes, even my 91 year old grandmother), needs to take a critical eye to what they see and the information they are gathering. Eli Pariser expresses in his 2011 Ted Talk that websites use an algorithm to record what links you have clicked, what websites you visited, your location while browsing, and what you “like” or who you “follow” on social media. Google, Facebook, news websites are personalizing the information made available to us. “The Internet is showing us what it thinks we want to see, but not necessarily what we need to see,” Pariser states. Pariser goes on to explain this phenomenon as our “Filter Bubble,” where we stay in our bubbles on the Internet, not seeing information that could possibly challenge our beliefs and viewpoints. In order to be well-rounded people who can contribute thoughtfully to Gee’s affinity spaces (or online communities to gather and share information between experts, novices, and everyone in between), we need to change our “Filter Bubble” so we can see other arguments, learn from people who think differently than we do, and think critically about our own views and why we believe in them.
As our assignment this week, we had to examine our own “Filter Bubbles” or our “Information Diet.” I looked at my MAET/Teacher twitter account, my personal twitter account, and my news sources online. On my professional twitter account (@SrtaGlynn), I noticed I follow all my MAET classmates, technology “experts,” a few Spanish teachers I had already known about, and various Spanish news accounts. On my personal twitter, I follow friends, various Michigan State and Buffalo Bills athletes and team accounts, and a local Indianapolis news account. For the most part, I keep my professional and personal twitters separate, but I flip through both “home feeds” daily. The biggest problem I found with my Information Diet was my source of news. I have specialized my news sources to three areas: local Indy news on my personal twitter, Spanish news on my professional twitter, and a USA Today app on my iPad. I have chosen the local news account and the Spanish news account based off of newspapers I have read and accounts who write information that I find relevant and important in my life. When I realized I was not getting a very balanced News Diet, I decided to create a Feedly account. I tend to be very sporadic on twitter. I won’t click on links, I unfollow news/celebrity accounts if they tweet too much, and I mostly just flip through the news feed quickly until something catches my eye. I found the idea of Feedly very interesting because it could be a new source of information for news, ideas for the classroom, as well as personal hobbies (like design, travel, or football). I can use this feed when I want to learn something, not just see a 140 character blurp on twitter. I designed my Feedly to have various sources with different information and viewpoints. I chose to follow local and foreign policy (something that was missing from my Information Diet) news sites. I followed various World Language teachers’ blogs: one who has flipped her classroom, one who uses primarily TPRS and Comprehensible Input to teach, and one who takes the traditional grammar teaching method. I also added new technology sources. I especially like Feedly because these blogs catch my attention more than twitter. Under the headline and picture, there is a short paragraph describing the article, which makes me want to read more. I now have access to multiple new sources of information and inspiration. I will use the news sites, especially world news, to challenge my beliefs and push my understanding of current events throughout the world. I will use the teacher blogs to rethink my current teaching pedagogy and incorporate new methods or activities. I will use Feedly to read RSS feeds that will pop my “Filter Bubble” and give me a more balanced “Information Diet” than I had when using just twitter alone.
Finally, I realized while examining my “Information Diet” that I am adding sites to read and think about, but I also need to make an effort to share more. I rarely ever tweet on my personal twitter and only tweet on my MAET/Teacher twitter for class or a specific purpose. I need to become better at tweeting to share ideas and resources I have found through Feedly. I need to become a more active member of the Internet! I am already planning on “attending” World Language chats on twitter in the fall (Thursdays – #langchat) and will try to be better about sharing resources on twitter for my MAET classmates and other teachers.
Gee, J.P. (2013). The anti-education era: Creating smarter students through digital learning. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.