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The Apocalypse is Nigh – Stager on Twitter, Flickr and NECC

from one son of a bitch to another

I generally find Gary Stager over-the-top and alarmist – just check out my parsing two weeks ago of his piece about how schools are like prisons. I still read him as often as he publishes, though; his articles are more provocative than most and I appreciate his point of view. Opinions by Stager and others with whom I disagree [to varying degrees] often help me flesh out and solidify my own stances.

Today Stager put out a piece called “Twittering While America Burns,” a brief, scathing indictment of education technophiles who spend their time fawning over social media innovations such as Twitter while significant, pressing issues muck up our schools:

The education blogosphere is in overdrive this summer with discussions of edugaming, all things Web 2.0, Flickrs of NECC photos and abstract ruminations on school reform. The virtual aspects of schooling are well represented in these discussions. Far less represented are the actual problems that require immediate attention.

For example, the United States Supreme court recently ruled that race may not be used as a variable in achieving racial diversity. Many Americans view this decision as a reversal of the landmark 1954 decision, Brown vs. Board of Education.

There’s a rumbling in the air – it might be my empty stomach, but it’s more likely the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse bearing news that Stager and I agree and the end is nigh.

For those who aren’t in the know [or don't especially care], Twitter is a social networking service that combines features of text messaging and blogging; Flickr is for photo sharing. Countless blogs in my RSS reader gush over these fashionable darlings of “web 2.0″ daily while:

And those are the examples I thought of in the last seven seconds.

I don’t expect all educators to lend their manpower to all causes, especially when some are better suited than others to tackle a particular problem. I do, however, expect educators to behave like professionals and put their respective issues into proper perspective. Mr. Stager was quite right to call you out and I support his point in full.

To those who have spent their day “Twittering,” I’ll issue to you a hearty, “Grow up.” If I’m wrong about the value of Twitter, Flickr and others, let me know – I’m interested in hearing your case.

And Gary, maybe in the afterlife we can re-enact the following scene. I’ll be Patton.

[video follows, the exchange starts around 2:00]

UPDATE at 7.23.07, 11.14pm:

The Cool Cat Teacher isn’t pleased. I just got back from Boston and have a few things to take care of over the next day – I’ll give a full response after that.

UPDATE #2 at 7.24.07, 6.10pm:

Alfred Thompson weighs in as well.

12 Responses to “The Apocalypse is Nigh – Stager on Twitter, Flickr and NECC”

  1. Miss Profe says:

    Matt, I agree with the points you have made here. I really don’t understand the concept behind sharing personal photos on the ‘Net, and I understand the concept of sharing every detail of one’s personal life on the ‘Net even less.

    We also, apparently, share the same affinity for the film, “Patton”. It’s one of my all-time favorites.

    A thought-provoking post.

  2. Matthew says:

    Miss Profe,

    I could’ve sworn that I responded to your comment this morning… I guess I navigated away from the page right before I hit submit. Time to re-write.

    I think sharing photos on some of the social sites is a good thing. Those sites allow you to keep in touch/keep up with people you know. Without them, I’d know a lot less about college friends I haven’t seen in years, and I’m pleased to have a way to stay in touch better. These things can be done tastefully.

    This is entirely different from justifying the use of these media in education, though. Too many in education technology fall in love with the packaging and then try to mash the product into that box. It’s backwards and it’s a disservice to everyone from students to taxpayers.

    A bizarre zeal for social media/web 2.0 is wasteful; directing that zeal away from serious issues in education is shameful.

  3. Vicki Davis says:

    Yes, the edublogosphere is connecting via twitter, however, you will see that most of us use twitter to indeed share the most important things (while of course some share more inane things.)

    The bottom line is that it is connecting us and while you may look at it and immediately jump in and criticize, if you look at the other things that those connecting through twitter are doing, you’ll see projects like that of Julie Lindsay and I which are included in Thomas Friedman’s upcoming update to the World is Flat on educational activism. We connected five classrooms in Bangladesh, Austria, Australia, China, and my classroom in Georgia USA to study the trends in IT and actually have a meaningful project.

    Do I twitter, yes! But I also am working on a project, connecting with other teachers, and although I am a private school teacher, doing my very best to find a public school to connect with the kinds of global projects that need to happen in America’s typically ethnocentric education system.

    My zeal is for effective meaningful, engaging education and sharing the best practices that I am using in my classroom which happens to be a technology classroom, I am however, working with english, math, and other classrooms.

    I too am alarmed about many of the issues in education and am doing my part — but to single out what is happening with Twitter is again making educators who are often islands of excellence retreat and be disconnected.

    Most teachers quit within the first three years because they feel isolated and alone and if twitter gives them a connection with others who are struggling through the system like them then bring it on.

    I’m sorry that those who just take a cursory look seem to jump to conclusions and lump everyone together — if you look at most, there are very few who spend “all day” twittering — it is just not so.

  4. Biff Cantrell says:

    Geez, it’s nice to see the Flat Earth Society is still active.

    I am sure such sweeping generalizations are informed from your own published exhasutive analysis of what every educator has been doing with web technology tools.

  5. Alan Levine says:

    This is not educational:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/14574987@N00/241343007/

    This would never interest anyone in perhaps reading:
    http://twitter.com/TwitterLit

    These kids wasted a bunch of time online:
    http://horizonproject.wikispaces.com/

    There are no reasons to post pictures online:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/mjagbayani/sets/895629/

    Why would anyone share a personal detail on the net?
    http://www.storymapping.org/thirdward.html

    Sharing pictures never accomplished anything:
    http://flickr.com/groups/savephotography/

    Now this is a totally worthless waste of time, give me back my chalk:
    http://www.googlelittrips.org/

    Why go online when we have a 1999 map of the world on the wall?
    http://www.commoncensus.org/

    The web is full of sites that add now value:
    http://www.language-exchanges.org/

  6. Brian Crosby says:

    Matthew – I doubt that the problems you cite would have been solved this summer except that some edubloggers are experimenting with Twitter. I don’t get the whole Second Life thing, but I also haven’t tried it. If some say they see some possibilities with Second Life in education I say let them try – isn’t that innovation? I don’t think they should just experiment with 2nd Life or Twitter or any application. But if a trained, experienced teacher sees an innovative way to use these tools that they have thought through and planned profesionally – then I say go for it.
    If you haven’t built a group that you Twitter with, then you should try it out. Its a great way to ask qustions and get answers or share what’s working or not – and so far I can only think of ways to use Twitter with my fifth graders that probably aren’t compelling enough to make me even try it – but it is another possible tool in my bag of tricks that because I am familiar with it I could decide to use in the future if I see a use.
    As for Flickr … give me a break. My students used it fairly often this year. We went on a field trips and students took digital photos (during classroom activities too) that we put on our class Flickr page – now students have easy access to all our photos – we used them to quickly and easily illustrate poems, informative paragraphs and more. Students were very motivated to write. Students learned basic computer skills – importing a photo into a word doc and then sizing it and writing and editing their writing – peer editing each others – like blogging – we posted their work in the classroom – always got comments from visitors, parents. Students could share their photos with family that had internet access. There are tons of uses for Flickr. When I do teacher trainings, Flickr is always one of the most popular things I show teachers how to use. Check out FD’s Flickr tools sometime – although you don’t have to use photos from Flickr to use Flickr tools. Hope that helps change your mind.
    Brian

  7. Vicki Davis says:

    Don’t really care to take time on this off task debate. I do believe that the blogosphere is being mischaracterized, however, I’m doing some important work on tagging standards and on teaching other teachers the appropriate pedagogical uses of blogs versus wikis to determine which is best depending on the outcomes desired.

    Biff —
    Don’t consider my analysis exhaustive, however, I am connected with 140 other educators on twitter and am an active part of the edublogosphere — I can only speak from my perspective and observations , however from the many edublogs that I follow around the world I do believe the edublogosphere is mischaracterized by these comments. Many in the edublogging community are international as well and will not care as much about North American issues.

    I will again agree that perhaps the edublogging community is not as heterogeneous as it should be and that many are not blogging who should be. I am not defending the current state of American public education because in my own county, the public system is one of the worst in the country. I do believe that there are many of us in the edublogging community who work very hard to improve and share best practices and twitter is just one way that we connect.

    On another observation,this may also be a function of your own blogroll as it differs to mine — I think you and I only have about 5-6 blogs in common that we both read, I wonder if that is also a difference in our perspectives?

  8. Matthew says:

    Vicki,

    Like I said in the addendum to my article, you’ll get a full response as soon as I have time.

    Matthew

  9. Matthew, I think you overstate your case somewhat, but I too have reservations about Twitter, from a management and effective learning point of view:
    http://terry-freedman.org.uk/artman/publish/article_1122.php

    Cheers
    Terry

  10. Mechelle De Craene says:

    I agree with Gary and Matthew.

    Mechelle

  11. Matthew says:

    Quick apology to Alan – because your comment contained more than 3 links, it was automatically considered spam by Akismet. I de-spammed it and now it can be viewed.

  12. Dana says:

    I don’t know that I care much what educators are doing on twitter so long as they are teaching, but I think too much hope is being placed on technology in the classroom.

    When I toured schools in the Rio Grande Valley as a new teacher, Runn elementary stood out to me as an interesting example. A fair number of the children come from surrounding colonias, substandard housing “editions” you would hardly believe existed in the USA. The school had recently received a multi-million dollar grant to incorporate technology in the classroom, and each room was equipped with state-of-the-art computer equipment. They were integrated into the curriculum, and at the end of it, they discovered that the children still couldn’t read, speak English or do math.

    So they put the dust covers back on them, and focused on what the kids needed: basic skills.

    I see the same thing going on with all of these new developments. Like how blogging is supposed to revolutionize education. There is already enough “noise” in the classroom.

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