Twitter is Real
I was a debater in high school. While I was moderately successful, I wasn’t the best. The best debater, during my years competing in Oregon high school forensics, at least, was a guy by the name of Marshall Kirkpatrick. I remember he had a deep, commanding voice, a charming way of connecting with the judges through wit, and amazing research. But most of all, he could think faster than any kid I knew. He was legendary.
Public speaking has always been a skill teachers push in high school; that, and being able to write an essay that makes sense. “It will help you in the board room or the courtroom, as well as the classroom.” They would tell us. Sometime in my future, this public speaking skill I had would become a cornerstone of my professional life, I was sure of it; every debater was. Teachers had told us over and over again the importance of being able to write a formal letter, an essay that had complex sentence structure and advanced vocabulary, and mostly the ability to get to the point clearly and before we all perished of old age. They were so ridiculously right about this.
How many of us lament the bad emails we get from people who write as if they are corresponding with their bff (omg, lol) rather than a CFO? Formal writing, or at least critically thinking about the nature of communication and using the appropriate language, mood, and complexity for each situation, is still an essential skill. But it is no longer the only way people communicate outside of public speaking. That is why I went to Twitter School two weeks ago, and why I’ve developed a course for our students based on what I learned.
That legendary debater? He went on to U of O, started blogging, and started using social networking for something besides cat pictures. Not long after, he worked to develop a very handy algorithm for Twitter users and started a fantastic company called Little Bird. Marshall was kind enough to sit down with Megan and me to educate us about the purpose, appropriate use, and reality of Twitter. It convinced me that everyone should go to Twitter School.
I had a twitter account so I could follow a few celebrities and a few friends. I tweeted, like, twice. Then I gave it up, thinking, “what’s the point?” I actually truly thought there was no purpose to Twitter, but mostly I was scared of it because I didn’t understand it. What I learned in Twitter school is that there is a purpose to Twitter, there are methods for appropriately engaging a tweet, and, most of all, that Twitter is real.
Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook aren’t going anywhere. I often say we must educate students for the world they live in, not the one we grew up in. Social networking is a blind spot for many educators. But Twitter is real, and we must all work to engage it with purpose. For me, that purpose is to connect my ideas with other people, to engage with organizations and people throughout the twittersphere who can help me bring my educational philosophy to the next level. Some of my old favorites are there such as @RethinkSchools, @Tolerance_org, and @ZinnEdProject as well as some new folks to watch such as @NaturalCuriosity which talks about environmental inquiry and a few awesome educators that are out there making education real in there classrooms. Twitter, for me, is another tool and another teacher on my learning path.
To this end, I have integrated what I learned in Twitter School to design a course called “Public Communication” instead of public speaking. Students at Peace Valley School will be engaging with all of these public realms, or at least live in a world where these realms are powerful, and we must therefore all work together to make sure we do so with a critical eye and a specific purpose. That purpose can definitely be cat pictures, but what ever we put out there and engage with in the public realm must be practiced with the same focus and intent as our carefully constructed essays and speeches.
The world we live in is full of networks and status updates and tweets. We can choose to ignore or opt out of this form of public communication, and I definitely understand why a person would make that choice. But for those who wish to engage it, it is crucial in this time and for our future that we do so with purpose, and critical evaluation. To do this, we all must practice. I hope to start that practice at Peace Valley School. And thanks to #localwisdom, guess which former debater has volunteered to contribute his expertise to our public communication curriculum?
Follow me @MollyLordG
Follow Marshall @Marshallk
Learn more about Little Bird @getlittlebird. Thinking about the future and how we can use networks to prepare for it.
Molly is the Founder/Director of Peace Valley School. Her vision of helping young people create a healthy community and world is now being realized in the opening of Peace Valley School.