An (aspiring) Educator’s Blog

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Posts Tagged ‘community

In Defense of the “Echo Chamber”

with 11 comments

I ran across posts on Educational Insanity and the Ed Jurist Record that characterize the edublogosphere (I’ll abbreviate it EBS for the rest of the post) as an “echo chamber”:

I’m still searching for the right metaphor, because I don’t know that “echo chambers” is quite right; maybe it is, though. According to Wikipedia, “[m]etaphorically, the term echo chamber can refer to any situation in which information, ideas or beliefs are amplified or reinforced by transmission inside an ‘enclosed’ space.” I’ve gotten myself in trouble in the past for suggesting that the edtechblogosphere is a closed space, so I have to be careful here. But, I’ve noticed that the ed. tech. folks on Scott’s list all tend to comment on each other’s blogs and they all tend to communicate with each other via Twitter and other communication media. There are LOTS of REALLY valuable reasons for that, mostly that there is lots of co-learning going on that way. [NOTE: I’ve noticed that the same sort of “echo chamber” exists for the ed. policy bloggers, although the echoes there are less frequent and more muted (IMHO), and I don’t know that there’s much electronic communication going on between them beyond the blogs]. (

Here are my reservations with these two posts:

1. Communities are “enclosed spaces”:


In biological terms, a community is a group of interacting organisms sharing an environment. The word community is derived from the Latin communitas (meaning the same), which is in turn derived from communis, which means “common, public, shared by all or many”[1]. Communis comes from a combination of the Latin prefix com- (which means “together”) and the word munis (which has to do with performing services).

In human communities, intent, belief, resources, preferences, needs, risks and a number of other conditions may be present and common, affecting the identity of the participants and their degree of cohesiveness. Traditionally in sociology, a “community” has been defined as a group of interacting people living in a common location. However, the definition of the word “community” has evolved to mean individuals who share characteristics, regardless of their location or degree of interaction.

Bloggers created EBS to share information amongst people with common interests.

2. Communities exist within communities exist within communities….you get the point. Members of the EdTech community recognize themselves as members of various interconnected communities. Topics include education in general, education policy, politics, professional development, social justice, teacher narratives, administration, student narratives, parent narratives, and media critique. This is evident in the content and linking of popular EdTech blogs. Weblogg-ed uses the lens of ed tech to talk about professional development, lesson plans, and literacy. Cool Cat Teacher Blog has the innovative 31 Day Comment Challenge – the purpose of the challenge is to strengthen many blogging communities. These are just two examples out of many.

3. As Adam Smith points out, specialization is a good thing. Most blogs (both inside and outside of education) choose a central theme and use that topic to branch to other subjects. This is the most efficient way of generating and sharing innovative content.

4. Bloggers understand their audience: Other bloggers.

Ed Jurist says that the most dangerous part about the ‘echo chamber’ in ed tech is the insulated conversation:

First, as far as I can tell, the ed. tech. field sees as Goal #1 the spreading of education technology knowledge to all k-12 educators which will help students learn. Well, when you are twittering, it is hard to bring in non-education tech. folks. It is a struggle just to get K-12 educators to visit blogs. If it were not for Google, I am not even sure how well we would be exceeding at that. To expect them to participate in Twitter conversations is unreasonable – so those conversations are 100% insulated conversations.

Although many bloggers engage in initiatives that target non-bloggers, most of their work is geared toward people who inhabit blogland.

5. Although the marketplace of ideas is competitive, edubloggers tend to believe in sharing.

Ed Jurist says:

Second, largely the ed. tech. field seems to be expecting new bloggers to come to them. Why? Isn’t that the opposite of Goal #1 above? When you see the blogosphere as a competitive marketplace for ideas, other bloggers on different topics (who will probably not be giving you Technorati bumps) are competitors, no? Why promote another’s blog, especially a non-ed. tech. blog who is not going to reference you back? To me, that is the exact wrong way to visualize the education blogosphere if your goal is to nurture new edubloggers so that they can in turn help their students. Third, the dominating ed. tech. social network is scary to outsiders. If you are an insider, this is probably hard to understand, but you scare people.

Ed bloggers promote each other’s blogs all the time – blogrolls, blog carnivals, group blogs, and guest appearances are just a few examples. Blogging isn’t competitive because of bloggers trying to guard their content. People who read blogs are thirsty for innovative sources of information – they discard blogs that don’t fit their needs.

Blogging is hard. Many people start blogs just to give them up a day later – why? Blogging is a public view of the personal. Not only will a blogger disagree with what you have to say, s/he will post their comments on a public space. Also, staying engaged in the community is time consuming. It doesn’t take much time for me to write a blog post. I spend more time looking at new blogs, making comments, following feeds, and reading education news. You can’t fault EBS for potential bloggers choosing to engage their energies elsewhere.



Written by TeacherC

5 June 2008 at 5:35 pm