TagTwitter

I couldn’t lose this one.

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We are not addicted!

“We are not ADDICTED!” My students were upset. They didn’t like the tone of the article we just read. It was about the effects of continuous access to the internet and social media. For the author, the effects were mostly negative, especially on young people.  When I said that the author might be right. That they were blind to how social media is programming them–I think I may have used the word “addiction”–they were indignant.

They wrote off the author and their teacher as being part of the older generation that didn’t understand the technology–we were, consequently, blind to the vast benefits of the internet and social media.

My Social Media Feeds

A few days later I read an article that popped up on Facebook called, ‘Our minds can be hijacked’: the tech insiders who fear a smartphone dystopia.  In it Paul Lewis tells us that the people responsible for making Google, Twitter and Facebook so addictive are disconnecting themselves and their families from the internet.  They are, apparently, even more concerned about the negative effects than I am. 

Another article came across my desk through Twitter: “How a half-educated tech elite delivered us into chaos.”  Here John Naughton argues that tech leaders know a lot about science, technology, engineering and math, but very little about the Humanities–and had they received a whole education–studied some Literature, History and Philosophy–they wouldn’t be surprised that their inventions have not taken us to the bright future they anticipated.  They thought they were providing a beautiful link between producers and consumers for the benefit of all.  Instead, we have ended up with “fake news and the weaponisation of social media.”

On my Facebook again, I came across the New York Times video called “How China is changing your internet.”  It warns of an Orwellian future if we allow internet giants to go the way of China’s “Super Apps.”  Since we have been reading Orwell, I thought I’d show this video in class.

Either Way, I Win

Perhaps I am too hard on the internet and social media.  Perhaps I have been reading too many articles bashing these sacred cows, and not enough material from the other side.  But if I am, it’s because the algorithms that run the social media platforms have are feeding me a steady diet from only one side of the argument.  These constitute and reinforce my views and biases–they begin to shape my thinking.

Either my negative view of the internet and social media is accurate, or my inaccurate negative view has been shaped by the internet and social media.

Either way, I win.

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.

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