Cocoons and echo chambers

 

I am writing this from a hotel room in Birmingham, UK. I’m here attending a residential workshop on what makes and e-competent tutor. It’s very interesting to be at this workshop whilst at the same time be on this connectivism course. The workshop is all about how to encourage UK HE tutors to be engaged with e-learning. The discussions on the workshop, whilst they are very relevant to the situation in many HE institutions in the UK (i.e. probably about 50% of staff in any one HE institution lack confidence in engaging with e-learning), feel as though they are poles away from what we have been discussing on this course. 

 

One good thing about coming away for a course is that the train journey allows plenty of time for reading – so on the train down to Birmingham, I took the opportunity to read ‘Through the Network (of Networks) -The Fifth Estate’, which I found thought provoking. I was really struck by this sentence from p.14

 

‘…. despite having an almost unlimited array of content at their fingertips, the users of the Internet and Web will choose to access only a narrow spectrum related to what most interests them. In the words of Cass Sunstein users are ‘cocooning’ themselves, creating ‘echo chambers’ in which their own personal prejudices will be reinforced rather than challenged.’

I am enjoying the workshop that I have been attending today – lots of great people doing loads of interesting stuff and plenty of stimulating discussion – but I was fascinated how at the beginning of the workshop (45 people), everyone in the room, except two of us, automatically got out their laptops and logged on. This was the norm of the group – a norm that would have been extremely daunting to tutors less confident with technology.

The connectivism course has taken a different approach. We are not all gathered in one room, but meet in a variety of rooms of our choice, but this is the norm – we have autonomy in how we want to engage and where we want to meet.

What strikes me is that each of these groups, in different ways, and around different domains and pedagogies might have ‘cocooned’ themselves, creating ‘echo chambers’ in which their own personal prejudices will be reinforced rather than challenged.

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