Balance is important in all areas of life- the foods we eat, the life balance choices we make, and the people and viewpoints that surround us. You may not be aware that technology developments are making it harder and harder to see all sides of a topic, particularly on political or policy issues. Author James Gee (2013) states that “the Internet allows each person to join shared interest groups that fit their sweet spots. You can customize what you see and whom you interact with in as fine a way as you like. You can, if you want, ensure that you never see or hear viewpoints you do not like or face people who do not share your values, interests, and viewpoints.” We all invest time and money into eating a healthy, well-rounded diet, but how do we develop a healthy diet of information?
I first became aware of the limitations of digital sources for information in 2012 when I had been living in China for a little while, but was still seeking out my hometown newspaper as my only source of news. However, at the lunch table, my colleagues would raise topics of conversation concerning their own countries or recent events in China. Some of these topics could be found in my news source, but many were missing or didn’t tell the whole story. My closest friends were from the UK, Philippines, and Indonesia, my world was slowly expanding, and I was beginning to understand the interconnected effects of policies created a world away. I realized that my news source was not printing many articles about China or the UK. To remedy this, I added the BBC world news to my infodiet and I now feel that I know the major events occurring on every continent. This simple change also gave me an ‘outsider’s’ view on American politics which helped to round out my sources. Although the BBC is just one news outlet with its own lens, it has helped to draw my attention to new areas of the world. The first step is awareness; from there, I can explore issues of interest in more detail.
Is my information diet a well-rounded one?
Slowly, but surely, I am widening my personal learning network to include a better variety of perspectives about education. Some of my favorite networks for growing as an early educator and administrator are:
ASCD: I enjoy reading Educational Leadership, their monthly journal focused on one topic, but from a variety of perspectives. They also host several conferences a year, but the annual conference is a great place to connect with others and you will likely find me there in 2019.
Erickson Institute: I am now following this organization on twitter and I especially pay attention to news coming from their Technology in Early Education Center.
NAEYC: This organization is one of the leading policy influencers in early education. While they take a more liberal approach to education than my own, I enjoy referencing their policy briefs and gaining a depth of understanding of various topics, especially issues related to language acquisition. Their academic journal Young Children is full of perspectives on best practices in early education.
As algorithms become more adept at curating the digital content that reaches my view to only include the perspectives I agree with, I need to diligently seek out diverse views to gain a full understanding of each issue. This isn’t just relevant to professional development; we all need to be mindful of the biases and worldviews that are coming at us in TV programming, movies, print sources, advertising, social media, and beyond. Think critically about what you hear and read, ask questions, and come to conclusions only after hearing several voices.
Gee, J. P. (2013). The anti-education era: Creating smarter students through digital learning. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.
Johnson, C. (2011, November 16). The information diet [Video File]. Retrieved July 18, 2018, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lNFNOSzik14