NECC – trying to keep up in the echo chamber.

I tried to stay up late last night to catch the happenings in Texas at NECC but by 1.00am my eyes were not cooperating. Urgently needed sleep so listened to my body and obeyed. Always wise!

Managed to catch a keynote live this morning Melbourne time. Wasn’t even aware they had scheduled a keynote for what would have been evening in the US.  Derral Garrison had set up a ustream of James Surowiecki delivering his presentation based on his book, ‘The Wisdom of Crowds’.  I discovered the link late so started watching halfway through the presentation. This is his understanding of what makes a wise crowd (from Wikipedia)

Four elements required to form a wise crowd

Not all crowds (groups) are wise. Consider, for example, mobs or crazed investors in a stock market bubble. Refer to Failures of crowd intelligence (below) for more examples of unwise crowds. According to Surowiecki, these key criteria separate wise crowds from irrational ones:

Diversity of opinion
Each person should have private information even if it’s just an eccentric interpretation of the known facts.
Independence
People’s opinions aren’t determined by the opinions of those around them.
Decentralization
People are able to specialize and draw on local knowledge.
Aggregation
Some mechanism exists for turning private judgments into a collective decision.

When I came in he was discussing the problems of existing in an echo chamber – the idea that we function in conversations with like minded people and as a result we reinforce each other’s beliefs. He stated the importance of having people who act as devil’s advocates -people who challenge ideas and get us evaluating  our ideas and thinking through concepts with an open mind. When he started talking about the echo chamber my ears pricked up. When I started blogging John Connell wrote a comment welcoming me as a new voice to the conversations – he said something to the effect that it is always nice to have a new blogger enter the fray as it brings new ideas to the table and helps broaden the echo chamber that is the edublogger world. While I was watching from the fringes (hate the word lurking- horrible connatations and not a fair description in my opinion) I had assumed the edublogger world was huge and that I would never gain a voice. I don’t think my voice is terribly significant, but I’ve found I do have one and the edublogger world is not as huge as I imagined.

One of the things I’m noticing in blog posts I’ve read about the conference is the number of ‘names’ (read influential bloggers) who are bemoaning the fact that there are more parties in the discussion now and it’s getting harder to have the kind of in depth discussions like they had at edubloggercon last year. Isn’t this just an indication of exactly what they have been expousing about the adoption of technology for connective purposes. As people switch on to the transformative power of making connections we are going to see more people enter the conversations. We need to embrace the ideas coming from these new entrants and welcome them, not make them feel like newcomers on the block- it may well be that they can serve as devil’s advocates, challenge the thinking and lead us in new directions.

Vicki Davis was using Cover it live to feed observations out from the keynote -worth reading as a reply on her blog  . You can catch the keynote in replay (I think) by visiting the NECC site.

I’d recommend you all having a read of Silvia Tolisano’s recent post, ‘Who would listen’. She talks a bit about the types of things that are synonomous with the idea of an echo chamber. It was a thought provoking post. I should have left a comment because it’s been in my mind for awhile now. Another one to have a read of would be Steve Dembo’s post ‘When does average Joe become Joe expert?’ Both of these posts reflect on names in the blogosphere and our tendancy to listen to what they have to say because they have established a name for themselves. 

I saw a comment after the keynote from someone who said it wasn’t relevant to education. I think it is really relevant. We have to be aware that when we immerse ourselves with like minded people we can lose perspective. My comment in the ustream chat was that many of us work in schools where we are the one of the few voices suggesting change and the only place we find like minded people in in our PLNs. If we spend a lot of time online we run some risk? of seeing things through the rose coloured glasses we don.

Food for thought anyway.    

1 Comment

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One response to “NECC – trying to keep up in the echo chamber.

  1. Doug Symington

    Great post Jenny.

    I agree that the notion of “preaching to the choir” is one that we need to guard against in our considerations of edtech.

    Especially, as you’ve indicated, if and when we’re the only ones who “get it” in our local schools and communities.

    I also agree that getting more voices into the conversation is exactly what we need — and what we have indeed been doing as we expand and connect networks. Furthermore, I’d suggest the more “the names” bemoan, the better job we’ve done!

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