I have always embraced reading and a healthy “infodiet” since I was a child. When I read the second half of James Paul Gee’s The Anti-Education Era: I thought about the affinity spaces I use to inform my thinking around topics related to education. Gee defines affinity spaces as, “ “An affinity space is a place or set of places where people affiliate with others based primarily on shared activities, interests, and goals, not shared race, class culture, ethnicity, or gender” (Gee, 2004 Loc: 67). Some affinity spaces that feed my professional “infodiet” are the Teach to Lead educator community, Twitter, and blogging. The Teach to Lead community informs my thinking with access to a national educator community focused on teacher leadership. Twitter & blogging have given me a way to discover educator voices and new ideas and practices. I committed myself to a goal of one chat per week and found I share and collaborate through this affinity space just as much as the colleagues I see almost every day face to face. Blogging too has given me an affinity space where I can engage professionally in longer musings and reflections on my learning.
Reflecting on the second half of Gee’s book, I thought about the limitations in my “infodiet” that used to occur before this year. Before this year, I primarily used the community and spaces set up by others to inform my thinking on professional topics. For example, I used Google Groups, chats, and professional developments set up by my job, organizations, and professional communities I belong to. I didn’t need to seek them out, because those networks were set up and I was being slotted right in. But there is a danger in just being satisfied rather than seeking out. This year I have focused on the latter, but I pushed myself even further this week to test the reach of my new “diet”.
When I added three new sources of information to my infodiet this week I searched for new sources based on Gee’s statement, “We seek the best answers we can, act on them as our ‘best bets’, and stay open to revising them and learning more” (Gee, 2004 Loc: 2454). The first source of information was a selection of comments on an article discussing the current MI teacher evaluation legislative bills. In reading these comments, particularly the ones I disagreed with, I realized the comments on these articles reflect a part of what Gee says society should be like. These comments are a way in “which everyone feels that they count” (Gee, 2004, Loc: 2490). People are making comments because they want to feel actions like commenting “can have a meaningful impact on others for the good.” (Gee, 2004, Loc: 2490). The comments in opposition said without hyperbole or vitriol let me know what informed citizens would say, not just the opinions of those already in my circle. The second new source I added were entries of a homeschooling blog posted by a high school acquaintance on Facebook. I found the school space I operate has much in common with the aims of homeschooling. Sharing feedback allowed both of us to develop and expand our mindsets a in a public forum. Finally, I followed a public policy group I generally tend to disagree with on Twitter (Mackinac Center). Their policy positions reflect their visions and values. But I have shared interest in education and through understanding their position I can leverage their expertise even if I disagree with it. Incorporating these different sources are already pushing my thinking and changing my worldview. Here’s to consumption of my new “diet”!
Carroll, Andrew. Information Diet. [Image file]. Retrieved from http://cpaandrew.com/2013/09/27/the-information-diet-a-review/
Gee, James. (2013). The anti-education era: Creating smarter students through digital learning. Palgrave Macmillan.
Johnson, Clay. Startup Information Diet. [Image file]. Retrieved from http://venturebeat.com/2012/02/21/startup-information-diet/