Is social media making promoting ignorance in educators?

Interesting conversation unfolded on twitter this afternoon.

First I felt a sense of relief.

After being an early adopter of twitter,  last year I was finding that medium was losing value as a learning tool.

The problem?

I was following people who weren’t adding value to my twitter feed.

A simple remedy was to unfollow a bunch of people. (As a side note – Bringing up the conversation of unfollowing is awkward – people immediately get defensive when you talk about hitting that unfollow button).

And so all was right in my little twitter world.

Teachers who repeatedly tweet pithy quotes in pictures. Unfollow. People who I met a conferences years ago but no longer have interactions. Unfollow. People who constantly tweeted their own old content multiple times a day. Unfollow. Teachers sharing bad information. Unfollow.

The beauty of social media is that you can create your own flow of information based on your own preferences.

But then I was challenged on my ‘ignore it and you won’t have to deal with it stance.’

Not everything shared online is worthy of consideration some of it is downright harmful. Typically the sharing of misinformation captures our attention when a major news event occurs. Plane crashes, terrorist attacks, natural disasters often attract large amounts of misinformation. As number 9 in this list points out, we the users of social media are partly to blame when uncritically share information.

Image from the Breaking News Handbook

But this is not just a problem with breaking news.

A few weeks ago, I came upon this fascinating article on the study of ignorance. 

While the internet can be a democratising force in education the very power that people have to be their own expert makes us prey for powerful interests wishing to deliberately spread ignorance.

Creating confusion on complex scientific issues like climate change, inciting panic on economic issues,  seeking to ‘balance’ views evolution/creationism to create a false picture of truth  – are all tactics that can be used to create ignorance. The author of the study found that misinformation tactics are:

particularly effective when many people do not understand a concept or fact and secondly, when special interest groups – like a commercial firm or a political group – then work hard to create confusion about an issue.

Despite being in the business of educating others, @surreallyno points out teachers are not immune to pushing ideas and concepts that have been debunked by research both to kids in their own classroom as well as on to other teachers (Take time to read her post. I’ll still be here when you are done). There’s also a bunch of companies happy to make a profit on bad research to further muddy the waters.@surreallyno  created a useful graphic for becoming a more critical consumer and sharer of content within the educational world.

Image by @surreallyno

Online we have choices.

We can uncritically share the information – bad practice gets amplified through online networks.

We can roll our eyes, ignore, unfollow but that claim is still shared around as a fact by others.

We can challenge and question.  This is hard.

Teaching is such a personal occupation putting your ideas out and having someone disagree is soul-destroying. Challenging the views of people with large follower counts or more experience is particularly daunting. We like to get along, to not rock the boat – but is that silence mistaken for consent?

If we can’t bother to clear up misinformation about learning within our profession what hope do we have with the general public?

A quick skim of the comments section of the local newspaper – shows there are a lot of misconceptions the general public carry with them about learning.

If we want to continue to innovate and improve schools we’ve got to start having those hard conversations. But maybe the first hard conversation we need to have is within education.

3 thoughts on “Is social media making promoting ignorance in educators?

Add yours

  1. I love the synchronicity of the web! Just been working on some info lit PD today and here’s some more useful stuff to add. Thanks, as always, for your thoughtful comments and for sharing.


  2. I just had to read the article on ignorance. On September 25 this year at 1:25PM it will be 20 years since I stopped smoking. Absolutely off the topic, but I just had to share. 😀


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