muse: n. a source of inspiration

Thinking outside the bubble/circle/box

Eli Pariser, in his outstanding Ted Talk, “Beware Online Filter Bubbles,” talks about how filtering our news is bad for us and for society.

The talk is here.

I think a lot about professional learning networks, Facebook, Twitter, and, I guess now, Google+. I also tend to think a lot about serendipity; those happy accidents where we trip across information that helps us make connections where none existed before.

In order to grow we need to expose ourselves to information that may not automatically seem to fit. It may be from a person who has a different political, religious, or cultural perspective than we do. Maybe it’s from someone in a different professional field. Or from someone who loves to do something that we would never aspire to do; the fisherman, the skydiver, the interactive gamer.

The problem, of course, is that the more we filter the information that we receive – by putting contacts in circles, getting news from our Facebook friends and relying on specific Twitter hashtags, we are automatically limiting the ideas to which we’re exposed. In that way, my new iPad is kind of evil…if I don’t want to hear the news that provides a conservative perspective, for instance, I can certainly avoid those news sources.

A long time ago, when you ended up waiting – like in the doctor’s office – and you forgot your book, you were at the mercy of waiting room magazines. That was before you carried your own information source in your pocket (otherwise known as the Smartphone). I actually remember reading magazines in those waiting rooms that I would never read elsewhere. And sometimes I got new ideas, was introduced to new people, and discovered things I would never have discovered before.

This is the piece that we’re missing these days. The opportunities for discovery.

How will you increase your potential to discover new ideas? Increase the diversity of the information you receive?

I have a few suggestions:

1. Engage in a professional development opportunity that is a stretch. I just returned from a ten day trip to Eastern Europe and the Balkans with Centropa. There, I met 70 educators from 14 different countries. There were Jews, Christians, and people who didn’t vote for any god. People who spoke different languages than I, people who taught in different environments, and people who educated in museums, not schools. We saw things that made us uncomfortable. And sad. And hopeful.

2. Read things you don’t normally read. Easy to do with mobile devices. Subscribe to business reviews, environmental journals and art magazines. Read blogs that have a different political perspective than you do.

3. When you check out your Twitter feed, click on a few links that don’t look like they’d “fit” for you. Surprise yourself.

4. Find people to follow on Twitter that are outside your comfort zone. You can always unfollow them later.

5. Go to TED and find talks that are about things you don’t know about. Get inspired.

The bubble is bad. It’s bad for you, your students, and the world. Go forth and stretch.


July 21, 2011 - Posted by | Community, Thinking | ,

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