CEP 812 – Week 5

Infodiets – Is My Infodiet Healthy?

This week in CEP 812, we continued to explore the work of James Paul Gee and Paul Jenkins, proponents of networked learning. A student of the digital age, I have long supported using the resources available to us through networking, whether in-person or digital. As Gee shares, “Our world is now so complex, our technology and science and technology so powerful, and our problems so global and interconnected that we have come to limits of individual human intelligence and individual expertise” (Gee, 2013, pg. 171). I have frequently turned to resources such as Facebook Groups, Twitter Chats, Voxer, and other mediums to discuss problems of practice and problem-solve solutions with my peers. In many ways, I have considered my information diet well-rounded, much similar to the “brainfood” pyramid below.

Screen Shot 2016-02-14 at 6.01.24 PM
“Brainfood Pyramid” by Pedros.lol – CC BY-SA 4.0

According to Jenkins and Gee, my work towards the greater Mind is exactly what we should be striving for. A system where there is no central expert, but a system individuals work to pool their collective expertise to solve a greater problem. It is a “social mode of production, a gift” (Jenkins, 2011). in which information is exchanged freely and without expectation of return.

So clearly, my infodiet is healthy, right?

In his TedTalk, Beware online “Filter Bubbles”, Eli Pariser opened my eyes to the algorithms of the internet in a manner that makes me begin to question the healthy factor of my infodiet. Pariser (2011) highlights the progression of the internet as a free repository of information that is equally accessible to all users to the modern internet that is filtered through algorithms. When we desire to learn about something, solve a problem, look for information, the first thing most individuals do is “Search” the internet. We would believe that when searching for “health benefits of carrots” we would see a uniform set of results between users. Pariser shares in his Ted Talk, that this belief is actually false. Google, Facebook and other companies have developed algorithms based on dozens of attributes that affect the results for each user. Our infodiet is not organic – it has been modified by what Pariser describes as “a invisible, algorithmic editing of the web.” These results are often filtered to reinforce attributes that reinforce our likes and interests while hiding oppositional and conflicting information.

work network human handshake.jpg
“Work Network Human Handshake” by Merio

With much of the information on the web being selected for us, it is now critical that we consider not only what we are looking for, but also how we view and use the information that is given to us. We are aware that the informed individual should seek out oppositional views to provide a richer, more informed knowledge base from which to act. However, the fact is that we often resist doing just that. Gee and Carr would suggest that our brains gravitate towards simplicity and ease. The wide-spread availability of the internet and electronic access has created a society that craves quick hits of new information, triggering a dose of dopamine – the chemical that mediates pleasure (Carr, 2011). As such, we often seek the information, reap the pleasure from the quick answer and move on to the next step. Carr would suggests that in order to harness the power of technology and the resulting networks, we need “to think really big thoughts that go against the grain of conventional wisdoms, we need to pay attention”.  The big thoughts need to include positions and thoughts that challenge our own thoughts, so that the resulting diet is balanced and wholesome.

In researching our Wicked Problem of Practice: Failure as a Learning Mode, I never considered that failure might be something we may want to avoid. In our group research we immediately began seeking peer-reviewed articles that supported failure as a positive attribute in education, yet not once considered that failure may not be in the best interest of our students.This week we were asked to add to our infodiet by seeking out views that challenge our current understanding of a subject. Alfie Kohn has challenged my perceptions of failure. Some things I had not considered:

  • Though we want students to rebound from failure, it doesn’t mean it is always going to happen.
  • Failure is best experienced when the activity is done voluntarily. Not many things in school are optional.
  • Is failure truly uncommon or are students already surrounded by instances of failure?

I encourage you to read some of his articles including “What Do Kids Really Learn from Failure?”. Though oppositional view may make our problem even more Wicked, the end results will be even more nutritional. 

To further enrich my info diet, I asked myself, “what educational initiatives do I find myself resisting or avoiding?” The first answer is STEAM education. Though an avid supporter of technology and I excelled in STEM subjects during my own K-12 education, I have felt aversion to the initiative for its affect on the arts. When STEM first gained traction, many schools devalued arts education, leaving programs unsupported and underfunded. STEAM has worked to incorporate the arts, however I have felt the initiative to be lackluster its implementation. To help shape my views on the subject, I added a “STEAM Education” RSS feed to my favorite app, Flipboard. The RSS feed aggregates information on STEAM education into one place for me to explore and expand my views on the subject. The same is of MakerEducation. Though cool, I have not been enamored with making a piano out of bananas using Makey Makey. It has not seemed like an authentic manner of teaching composition to my HS band students. I have started to follow a RSS feed on Maker Spaces on Flipboard and have followed MakerSpaces.com on Twitter. Perhaps some cool ideas will come across the board that will change my perspective on how the MakerSpace movement can be incorporated into the HS music performance class.

“Big Bubble” by Hartwig HKD

Our world looks very nice from within our bubble. It is comfortable and nice. However, we should be excited by the possibilities that come from exploring beyond our bubble, our normal infodiet. Just perhaps we will find another cuisine or superfood that transports us to places we never could have imagined. Time to start seeking oppositional views to enrich our lives and our practice.




Carr, N.  (2011).  The Dark Side of the Information Revolution.  Retrieved on February 8, 2016 from http://link.brightcove.com/services/player/bcpid57825992001?bckey=AQ~~,AAAADXaozYk~,BawJ37gnfAnGoMxEdQj_T9APQXRHKyAC&bctid=1128986496001

Gee, J. P. (2013). The anti-education era: Creating smarter students through digital learning. New York, NY: Palgrave MacMillan.

Hartwig HKD. (2008, June 5). Big Bubble. Retrieved February 14, 2016, from https://www.flickr.com/photos/h-k-d/2595755975 (Originally photographed 2008, June 5)

Jenkins, H.  (2011, August 4).  Media Scholar Henry Jenkins on Participatory Culture and Civic Engagement.  Retrieved on February 8, 2016 from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZgZ4ph3dSmY&feature=youtu.be

Pariser, E.  (2011, March).  Beware online “filter bubbles”.  Retrieved on February 8, 2016 from https://www.ted.com/talks/eli_pariser_beware_online_filter_bubbles?language=en

Pedros.lol. (n.d.). Brainfood Pyramid. Retrieved February 14, 2016, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cognitive_training#/media/File:Brainfood_Pyramid.png

Work Network Human Handshake. (n.d.). In Merio (Author). Retrieved February 14, 2016, from https://pixabay.com/en/work-network-human-handshake-985543/ (Originally photographed 20111, November 24)



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