I Invented Twitter in 1990


Most people think Twitter began in 2006, but a form of it existed in my grade 7 classroom long before that.  I didn’t call it Twitter, I called it “Notion Notes.”

Early in my career, I was a grade seven teacher.  Besides having fun learning all that Science and English, we also did fun things for their own sake.  The kids loved it and so did I.

In it’s simplest form, a Notion Note is when students each write something on a little piece of paper, small enough it could hold more than 144 characters, and then I would read them out loud one by one.

The idea was that the students would play with words and ideas and there’d be some benefit from instant “publication.”  Very quickly a whole bunch of rituals grew around this simple activity.

  • The paper must be newsprint, symbolizing the temporality of notions.
  • When a Notion Note had been created it must be folded once and held up between the middle and fore fingers until it was collected.
  • They were read from a seated position.
  • After each notion was read, it was torn four times and sprinkled from aloft into the large garbage can, again symbolizing the temporality of a notion.
  • Once a Notion Note was turned in, it belonged to the community rather than the author–one couldn’t publically state, “That one’s mine.”
  • If a Notion caught my fancy through originality, profundity, sincerity or wit, it was deemed a “Classic” and placed ceremoniously into my breast pocket.  This is obviously correlative to the “favouriting” of Tweets.
  • At the end of the year, I would type up and post all of the classic notion notes of the year, and celebrate them.  This is obviously pretty much the same thing as “re-tweeting.”

Students got into this.  It became the goal to either get a laugh from their classmates or to get their notion note into that breast pocket and make the Classic list.  They began to have a notion note page in their binder where they’d write down possible submissions.  If they came across a quote while reading, they’d write it down.  A funny idea or humourous question they had in response to something in Social Studies got written down too.  Students also used Notion Notes as a way of disseminating famous quotes.

Notion Notes would sometimes talk directly to me, or interact with a Notion Note from the previous week.  Sometimes they’d begin to develop themes over several weeks. These are like the reply option in Twitter.

Here are some classics from 1993:

I think zits are those little bugs that crawl in your underwear at night.

This pen doesn’t work.

If pencils had erasers on both ends, we’d get better grades.

Count to 5 . . . You are not 5 seconds older.

What’s the difference between a duck?  Both of it’s legs are the same.

Author Unknown must be very talented.

Nobody notices what I do, until I don’t do it.

As the fish swims through the sea,/The bird swoops down and goes tweet.

There it was.  The first tweet, staring me right in the face.

Too bad I was too short sighted to convert Notion Notes into an app–the problem was, no one knew about apps in 1990, and I missed my chance.

5 Replies to “I Invented Twitter in 1990”

    1. I don’t remember exactly where the idea came from. It probably wasn’t completely original, but an adaptation of something I came across in my reading or a workshop or something.

  1. I remember doing this! I was in your 91/92 Grade 7 class. I think I even had a Classic once – I wish I could remember what it was. I googled you to see what you are up to, and came across this entry. Let me also say thank you for being such a great teacher. I am glad to see you are still teaching and no doubt continuing to impact lives in ways you don’t even know. Do you listen to Hamilton with your students now the way we listened to Les Mis back then?

    1. Hey Kathryn, I was just thinking of you the other day and wondered what you were up to. I haven’t taught grade 7 since the mid-90s. I’m teaching Grade 12 stuff these days, and I haven’t managed to get the notion notes into the routine. I’m glad you found me. Thank you for the kind memories. And thanks for reading.

      1. Hi Mr. DeJong! I’m surprised you remembered me after all these years. ☺ Do you have an email address I could write to you at?

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