Twitter: #langchat vs #Baltimoreriots

I have been trying to develop more of a PLN via Twitter (@mmekingsley). I have retweeted posts that I have found on #langchat, #flteach, and #WLteachers. I have also tried to start a couple conversations, and am finally getting some back-and-forth dialogue going! My involvement is not anything life-altering at this point, but it is at least a start. (I actually just edited this post from earlier today with this new photo, because I am excited that maybe my Twitter-connections are going to extend beyond Twitter and the 140 character limit!)

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At this point, I am seeing Twitter as a good resource full of interesting and current information about education, and I am actually enjoying reading many articles, infographics, and blogs that mentioned on Twitter.

I was just joking with Ross Connelly that his recent blog post on Twitter “stole” way too many ideas that I was also planning to write about. I find the character limit frustrating at times, and think that my poorly phrased questions are less likely to get a meaningful reply from other Twitter members that they would if I were to just have an extra 100 characters or so. I also feel like this leads to too many tweets that are very shallow in nature. At the same time, I get that the whole point of Twitter is brevity. I do like that I can skim through so many tweets so quickly, and click links in those that interest me so I can better explore the issues that I find meaningful.

I also really agree with him about the fact that for now I am greatly enjoying using Twitter just for professional reasons. I have Facebook for personal use (although since nearly all my coworkers are also my “friends” on Facebook, I guess those lines have started to blur). In an ideal world, I like separation. I enjoy(ed?) Facebook because I could post personal updates for people I really care about— like my close friends back home, and my family members that I don’t get to see nearly often enough. As my “friend list” on Facebook has grown, I have actually been using it much less often and have even been considering leaving it completely.

Although my love-hate relationship with Facebook goes way back, I have never used it for professional purposes. That is partly because I do like to keep my personal life somewhat separate from my professional life, but it is also because most of the people I most care about on Facebook are not even slightly interested in my professional life. If I started posting links about Coetail, gamification, teaching French, or standards-based grading, I can imagine that most of my high school friends and older family members would unfollow or unfriend me. Only an educator wants to look at educational jargon on a routine basis.

I do, however, follow the Facebook pages of various media outlets that I regularly read, and also follow various organizations. The New York Times can show up in my newsfeed and not do anything to alienate relationships that I use Facebook to maintain.

This morning I woke up, and logged into my personal Facebook page as usual. Wow. Things in Boston are really a mess. It was clear from those news articles in my feed. I read a couple full articles while getting ready this morning, and came to work feeling somewhat-informed about the current situation.

After getting to work, I logged into Twitter for professional reasons. I checked #langchat and the other hashtags that I normally check, and found some more good resources.

Today, however, was the first day that I clicked on one of the trending hashtags listed on the left. #Baltimoreriots.

Woah!!! Way different story that the NY Times article. Many images from people who are there. Many voices expressing frustration and anger. Also many voices expressing specific frustration about how the protests are being portrayed by traditional media. Here, there is no censoring or editing of anyone’s opinions. If you check out #Baltimoreriots you will see a lot of opinions on all side. Some will inspire you, and some just might make you give up all hope in humanity. There was a lot of commentary from people who are far-removed from the situation— and a lot of that commentary was quite disturbing. Much of the #Baltimoreriots tweets were disgusting, racist, and violent. I’m not surprised in the slightest bit, but I am also not used to getting such a first-hand live view from people who choose a Twitter name involving “Adolf.” I am choosing not to give additional voice to those views, but the reactions below sum it up pretty well:

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Twitter showed a much more R-rated version of events than CNN or NY Times is ever going to provide. Although I appreciate my NY Times articles, I also think that the ability to see ourselves what is going on in situations like this— to see the good, bad, and horrible aspects of humanity— is important.

As much as #langchat and #WLteachers can provide some fuel for thought and action, so can #Baltimoreriots. Thank you, Twitter, for a much needed kick in the stomach.

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