The Oxford Dictionary gives the definition of an echo chamber as “An environment in which a person encounters only beliefs or opinions that coincide with their own, so that their existing views are reinforced and alternative ideas are not considered“. Similarly, the Oxford Dictionary defines a filter bubble as “A situation in which an Internet user encounters only information and opinions that conform to and reinforce their own beliefs, caused by algorithms that personalize an individual’s online experience.”
These terms are increasingly used interchangeably since both have similar meanings. Many teachers on social media tend to fit into established cliques, self-selected because they have similar viewpoints. Twitter and social media will recommend that you follow new people similar to the people you already follow. When you search on Google it will return results that are personalised for you based on what it knows about you.
Since I left teaching I’ve come to rely on connections that I’ve made, although I hope the projects I’m working on now are based on what I know as well as who I know. As I’ve stepped back from the classroom I’ve paid more attention to what happens on social media and who talks to who. When I’ve been out and about at conferences I’ve looked at who knows each other offline, and at how often these relationships continue online.
Some of these teachers meet up at conferences and Saturday events and cement these relationships and viewpoints. This isn’t a criticism of either people or their networks but it makes me question if we (myself included) might be missing out on a wider range of viewpoints because of this.
This weekend I was reading the introduction to a recently published education-related book in which the author thanked some colleagues who had contributed advice. Of course, these colleagues were part of a wider network on social media.
So does this matter?
I try to follow most people back on Twitter (apart from those who follow only to boost their follower numbers or their sales) and I enjoy reading a range of viewpoints. I wonder if having a following of teachers, most of whom teach the same subject and to the same age range of learners, means that I’m limiting my own exposure to alternative viewpoints and ideas. I’ve started following teachers from other subject areas and phases to see how this changes the ideas in my Twitter feed and in turn my own ideas.
I’ll keep you posted!