“So here are some questions that keep me up at night: How are we to make our students literate if we ourselves are not? If we cling to age old definitions and ignore the wisdom of one of the oldest professional education organizations we have in this country, how do we provide my kids with the experiences they need to fully understand what it means to be a self-directed, participatory learner in this century? How do we make sure that every child and every teacher has access to these tools and connections? And what do we do when the reform conversations are being led by a majority of folks who have no context for the changes that are happening every day in these connected spaces, folks that by NCTE’s definition, may have some literacy issues themselves?” ~ Will Richardson
As literacy is so fundamental to opportunities of learning, I have been thinking about Twitter and the use of it in our schools. If you look at this video, you will see that the use of Twitter is going up exponentially and things such as hashtags are making their way into things outside of Twitter. For example, have you ever read a text message that has the term “#fail” in it? Why the pound sign?
Just looking at a random tweet from Patrick Larkin, I wonder if most educators are able to decipher what the message is saying or even where to go to find out what the “pound sign thingies” mean? Take a look:
During this time in our world, if you can’t read this, are you missing out on something important? It is not just the words, but the links and hashtags that are in the message as well. I have done several workshops with educators and having something up like Tweetdeck looks like it is right out of the Matrix movies. I know it did to me when I first started using it. That being said, I am always appreciative when others are willing to take the time, struggle, and learn to get better at using this medium. It is so important that we model our learning continuously as educators for the sake of our students.
“The new literacy, beyond text and image, is one of information navigation. The real literacy of tomorrow entails the ability to be your own personal reference librarian—to know how to navigate through confusing, complex information spaces and feel comfortable doing so. “Navigation” may well be the main form of literacy for the 21st century.” ~ John Seely Brown
I have written about the texting improving literacy before, but I was again reminded of how much more our students read now as opposed to the time I was a kid when I read this article discussing a recent talk by Margaret Atwood:
Thanks to the rise of the internet and of social media, “I would say that reading, as such, has increased. And reading and writing skills have probably increased because what all this texting and so forth replaced was the telephone conversation,” she continued. “People have to actually be able to read and write to use the internet, so it’s a great literacy driver if kids are given the tools and the incentive to learn the skills that allow them to access it.”
Often you will hear things on how Twitter is “eroding society”, yet there can often be much more in a tweet then simply 140 characters. Atwood goes on to talk about how people are using Twitter to express themselves in similar ways, further their learning through the links that are often provided, and are sometimes using the medium to do different things:
“A lot of people on Twitter are dedicated readers. Twitter is like all of the other short forms that preceded it. It’s like the telegram. It’s like the smoke signal. It’s like writing on the washroom wall. It’s like carving your name on a tree. It’s a very short form and we use that very short form for very succinct purposes. There is a guy out there who is writing 140-character short stories — I just followed him today…but that’s the exception. It’s sort of like haikus [and] prose,” Atwood said.
Journalists are quickly learning that a Twitter account can be the best way to connect with an audience and share information as it happens. It is making the news more interactive and you will often see on newscasts the “Twitter handle” highlighted when a person is speaking. Humans yearn for connections and Twitter is a great way to be able to interact with those that once seemingly were out of reach. If journalists and writers are using this medium, should we not understand or share it with our own students?
Literacy is something that continuously evolves and I am not here to condemn those that don’t use Twitter. There are many areas of literacy that I can continue to improve (especially in the area of media literacy), but I know better to not just brush it aside and ignore it. We always need to get better for our kids. If we can’t understand all of the symbols in Twitter, learn how to write a tweet, and use those 140 characters (not all of the time) to lead people to more information, are we missing out on something?
As evidenced in the video below, there can be a lot of power in a simple tweet. We need to learn and take advantage.