Recently, I read James Paul Gee’s book, The Anti-Education Era and it helped me to think about the affinity spaces I use. According to Gee, affinity spaces are “Places where people go because of a shared interest in a common endeavor” (2013, p. 175). With this knowledge, I thought it would be a good idea to take an in-depth look at how I utilize my own affinity spaces.
When you think about all the food you put into your body, it makes up your diet. The same can be said for all the information we take into our brains. We can consider this our “information diet” and naturally, we want it to be healthy. When I began reflecting on my information diet, I quickly came to the conclusion that it might not be as balanced as it should be.
What do I mean by this? While browsing my Twitter feed, it was evident that I followed people who think like me, teach like me, and reaffirm my viewpoints. In essence, naively believing that my views are correct and those that disagree are wrong. According to Gee, this is dangerous because I am only interested in people echoing back my views and values endlessly and mindlessly (Gee, 2013, p. 163). If I see a post that contradicts the way I think, I usually just don’t follow that individual simply because I don’t want the added frustration. In a sense, I am creating my own filter bubble (check out more on Eli Pariser’s idea of filter bubbles here). I believe the reason I don’t follow people with differing views is not because I don’t value them, but simply because I never really used social media as a critically engaging tool before.
I know the value of opposing opinions. It’s at the root of building critical thinking skills. After examining my Twitter feed, I came to the realization that I was severely limiting myself. I will never be able to critically engage in a topic, if I don’t take advantage of following people whose views differ from mine. Viewing other people’s opinions may not change my own, but it will help me understand more of the whole picture, leading to a healthier information diet.
Not only do I use Twitter as an affinity space, but I also use blogs. In order to expand my views, I have started following John Spencer and his blog. He wrote a post about “Ten Reasons to Get Rid of Homework”. While I disagree with this viewpoint, after reading his post, it has challenged my thinking. He also wrote a post titled, “What happens to student engagement when you take away grades?”. In it, he discusses that he teaches a class where no grades are assigned. He has discovered that in this class, students’ creativity soars. I don’t discount his findings, but they do challenge my current thought process. In my experience, I feel like there needs to be some way for students to know they’re accountable for their work. He has an interesting perspective and it definitely makes me consider a different viewpoint.
I have also started following Mark Barnes on Twitter. He is a very active tweeter and wrote an article called, “Five Reasons I Don’t Assign Homework”. I have always thought of homework as, among other things, a way to teach responsibility. Wow. Barnes does make some compelling points in regards to homework when he writes, “Students are told what to do, when to do it, and when it must be returned. Where does responsibility come into play?” (Barnes). My question is, doesn’t the act of turning it in on time count as being responsible? His argument will not necessarily get me to eliminate homework all together, but it’s certainly food for thought. Even though I don’t agree with all of his ideas, seeing his tweets on my feed will definitely allow me to continually expand my information diet.
Another blog and Twitter account I’ve started following is The Educator’s Room. One of the posts by Lori Rice discussed classroom seating. She allows her students to sit anywhere they would like after she’s taught them how to determine their best learning environment. I have always had my students sit in groups rather than the “traditional rows”. My rationale being the ability to collaborate, help each other, and learn to be constructive critics. I thought that was good enough. This blog has expanded my thinking and encouraged me to step out of the box and perhaps allow my students to determine their own seating. The Educator’s Room shares a plethora of ideas. I do not necessarily disagree with all of them, but many posts make me think twice which is exactly what I need to pop my filter bubble.
Adding these sources of information push me out of my comfort zone, which as I’m constantly learning, is a great place to be.
Gee, J.P. (2013). The anti-education era: Creating smarter students through digital learning. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
Barnes, M. (2013, October 10). Top 5 reasons I don’t assign homework – brilliant or insane [web log post]. Retrieved July 31, 2015, from http://www.brilliant-insane.com/2013/10/top-5-reasons-i-dont-assign-homework.html
Rice, L. H. (2014, April 3). Where should I sit? [web log post]. Retrieved July 31, 2015, from http://theeducatorsroom.com/2014/04/sit/
Spencer, J. (n.d.). Ten reasons to get rid of homework (and five alternatives) [web log post]. Retrieved July 31, 2015, from http://www.spencerideas.org/2011/09/ten-reasons-to-get-rid-of-homework-and.html
TED2011. (2011). Beware online ”filter bubbles” given by Eli Pariser (video file and transcript). Retrieved on July 31, 2015 from, http://www.ted.com/talks/eli_pariser_beware_online_filter_bubbles
[Untitled illustration computer keyboard ]. Retrieved August 2, 2015 from https://pixabay.com/en/keyboard-computer-button-holiday-393838/