Balancing Act.

CEP 812 hit us with another wicked problem this week: balancing our information diet.

It started with Eli Pariser’s TED Talk on Filter Bubbles that left me wondering what the internet was hiding from me.

Clearly this is a problem, so how do we get balanced?

Step 1: Consider your current consumption diet.

How many ‘information vegetables’ are you consuming?  Are you overindulging on dessert?

Reflecting on my own information diet – a smorgasbord of election season banter, hilarious parenting ‘wins’, a splash of world events, and appropriately for this class, feed after feed of education technology, student centered learning and design thinking.

But what was missing?  Was I in essence creating my own filter bubble with my search terms?  What would happen if I searched for traditional learning benefits or teacher centric classroom to pros of lecture?

Step 2: Facing the reality.

A bubble.  I live in a bubble.  My results for topics counter to my viewpoints did not actually give me articles contrary to my viewpoints.  While Google was happy to show me an over priced bounce house ad after I searched one time for a much more conservative model on Amazon, it could not understand why after presumably hundreds of searches on incorporating technology into the classroom and designing modern learning environments, I would possibly want to read an article centered on the benefits of lecture.

Step 3: Making sense of it.

After searching for awhile – and disagreeing about much I was reading on standards and one size fits all learning – I realized that I was essentially swinging the pendulum the other way. Wicked problems are just that – wicked.  They don’t have a right or wrong answer so filling an information diet with strongly polarized ‘this way is the only way’ articles – regardless of the stance chosen – is just adding more junk to the plate.  While it is good to know what is out there, balance doesn’t necessarily mean reading articles of opposite stances, but rather, finding sources that provide a fair presentation of an opinion substantiated by research.

For example, I recall Bransford, Brown, and & Cocking’s (2011) idea that foundational content is critical to the transfer of ideas, and this reminds me that not everything has to be posed as a complex problem and it is okay to stop the class groupwork, focus everyone on the same board and give a brief lecture on a point that they need to know to dive deeper into a topic.  Is the entire class lecture? No.  Is the entire class student exploration? No.  It’s the balance that works for each specific group of students working to understand and apply a particular concept.  A balance that is not the same for any two groups of students – now that is wicked!

Step 4: Breaking the bubble – or at least expanding it.

Managing information bubbles is truly wicked.  We need some sort of filtering to allow us to locate valuable information in a time when vast amounts of information are available.  The question then becomes how to manage the bubble to encompass various viewpoints but not expand it so wide that we become overwhelmed with information.

Fortunately, a balanced PLN can aid in this.  A search on the top education feeds and blogs results in hundreds of lists to start with.  After adding a few in the beginning I realized I was simply cluttering my plate so instead, I made a list of a few to check in on and only if they seemed to present views from an objective stance did I follow them further.  In the end, diet is about moderation so don’t overflow the plate!

From one wicked problem to another…

This week’s look at information diets has led to some great insight for our other wicked problem – teaching complex thinking.  To truly understand the problem of complex thinking, we have to look at it from various angles – as parents, faculty with various opinions of teaching methods, administrators, boards of education, etc.  Being cognizant of our information bubbles makes it easier to search outside of that bubble for other viewpoints, however confusing to Google that may be!

Check out this word cloud of my recent notes.wordcloud-1


Bransford, J.D., Brown, A.L., & Cocking, R.R. (2000). How people learn: Brain, mind, experience and school. National Academies Press. Retrieved from


2 thoughts on “Balancing Act.

  1. In making sense of our information diets, you made recalled that Bransford, Brown, and Cockings idea of foundational ideals of knowledge is critical for transfer while serving a base for further exploration. I do agree and find a lot of value in lecturing of foundational knowledge and using that for a starting point for further student exploration and discovery. I like your word cloud, the terms listed within are appropriate.


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