Tag Archives: James Gee

Breaking Out of the Echo Chamber

This week I reflected on different networked affinity spaces I use to connect with people, learn new skills and ideas, and inform my thinking. As Gee (2013) asserts in The Anti-Education Era, people might actually be better suited to thinking with others and through the assistance of varied tools instead of thinking alone.

Using social networks and different online communities, I strive to participate in a range of networks to broaden my perspectives, participate in and contribute to communities, and build relationships with others (Jenkins, 2011). In fact, some of my networks, like Twitter, have gotten so large (i.e., following 3,500+ accounts) that I often only catch snippets from certain people or groups. To ensure that I stay up-to-date with my closest affinity groups, I create lists and specific hashtag streams in Hootsuite (e.g., #dtk12chat and #makered) but this means I see more of those discussions and less of other ones.

This is part of a larger concern that Pariser (2011) and Gee (2013) warn about in their work. Due to the flexible, personalized nature of technology and networks today, it is easy to consciously and unconsciously create an information bubble that echos the same ideas and perspectives back at you. Byrne (2016) wrote a great post recently discussing the dangers of these “echo chambers” and the power of social media, in particular, toreinforce your existing point of view in order to give you more of what you like” creating filtered information bubbles.

With the concerns of an echo chamber on my mind, I tried finding new sources of information to add to my “information diet” this week to broaden the bubble I have created on Twitter. At first, I searched for accounts that might push my thinking around issues of testing and standards, school choice, and innovation. It was hard finding accounts that focused on one selective area and I realized a hashtag search might be a better way to broaden my perspectives. I chose three hashtags, #edpolitics, #educolor, and #unschooling and created a new tab with individual streams for them in Hootsuite. My hope was that these streams would bring to the forefront ideas and discussions that I might often miss in my Twitter network because while I follow people who discuss each of them, it is easy for them to get lost in my filtered bubble.

hootsuite streams

Following these streams for the past week helped push discussions and resources related to racism, testing, education funding, and unschooling to the forefront of my Twitter feeds. For example, I read tweets from accounts like Alanis Morissette supporting unschooling and Education Week discussing ESSA. I was excited to see a breakdown comparing unschooling and schooling, find a new resource on game design, and read about new education bills and the new Secretary of Education nomination. I was also concerned to read articles such as this one discussing teaching practices at Success Academy Charter schools, which came up in different ways on both my #edpolitics and #educolor streams (see image). There are clearly difficult discussions that need to be happening around these topics and I can only participate if I actively ensure they are not filtered from my feed.
Screen Shot 2016-02-13 at 4.43.31 PM
I appreciated the opportunity to examine the information I take in each day more closely and take some control over the algorithms (which are about to increase on Twitter) that might be limiting which articles I am exposed to through my networks (Pariser, 2011). I hope to continue this practice of singling out specific hashtags, which are not part of my daily stream, to continue broadening my bubble on a more regular basis.


Byrne, D. (2016). The echo chamber. [Blog post]. Retrieved on February 11, 2016 from http://davidbyrne.com/the-echo-chamber

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

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  


Overcoming “Frozen Thought” with Design Thinking

Have you ever wondered why humans, an intelligent and developed species, can at times seem “so stupid in such deep and appalling ways” (Gee, 2013, p. 4)? James Paul Gee has and he attempts to address that question in his book The Anti-Education Era, in which he examines the many limitations that prevent humans from solving big, complex problems smartly.

One of the limitations he investigates in his book is the structure of institutions, which often “freeze” solutions in an effort to standardize procedures and lighten the cognitive load of their employees. This practice can make it very difficult for institutions to adapt and change the ways they work and solve problems, even if their old ways are no longer viable or effective. Additionally, Gee suggests that institutions face a secondary problem that make it difficult for them and the people who work in them, to deal with complexity – they are conflicted because of a tug-of-war between the institution’s goals and their own personal and social goals.

After reading the initial section of Gee’s book on “How to be Stupid,” for my graduate course on Applying Educational Tech to Practice, I argue that it is possible to use our knowledge of the limitations humans face when tackling complex problems to respond more intelligently. I believe that we can use this awareness to seek out tools, primarily design thinking, to reframe how we approach problems and to address them in a more people-centered way that is inclusive of personal goals. Check out my essay here to read more and let me know if you see design thinking as a viable solution to the limitations humans face when trying to solve complex problems.


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