Recently I joined the Advisory Board for the KQED Do Now. This is a group of educators who are looking at ways to integrate the KQED current event-based Q&A activities on their Do Now site. The goal is to see what it is like to integrate Twitter into a current events curriculum and see how it goes. I decided to use my sophomore classes for the project, as my seniors are so completely overwhelmed with being seniors that they are just sort of walking around in a state of confusion, occasionally proclaiming: “Ds get degrees!!” The premise is not that complicated: KQED provides a prompt, with a basic written overview for them to read and a variety of supplementary multimedia resources, the kids read it, then they Tweet their response to @KQEDedspace with the hashtag #KQEDdonow. Done. Their responses show up in the KQED Do Now Twitter feed and on the live stream on the Do Now web page. Immediately. Real time current events. Precisely the point of current events one might say.
Of course my seniors became incensed with this because it was SOOOOOO unfair that the sophomores got to use Twitter when they had been doing their current events all year on Tumblr. #grassisalwaysgreener Double hilarious as they were totally non-chalant about Twitter when @DanaDanger came to talk to them about it.
Anyhow, it has been very interesting to see how the Twitter project is shaking down in my classes. It definitely illuminates the technology gap for starters. Although a computer is not a prerequisite for utilizing Twitter (one of its key benefits is that it can be easily accessed through a smart phone, and even has utility with any phone that can text, as we saw in the Arab Spring and throughout the Occupy efforts) it is clear that kids who do not have a computer at their disposal are substantially more uncomfortable with trying the unfamiliar regarding online endeavors. Beyond that, as with all lesson plans, there are some kids who love it and others who really just cannot get on board. But they are the minority and that is a victory.
We started with prompt #31 on internet memes (likely why they have been showing up on here) and considering whether or not they are “art”. It was sort of a perfect prompt for my Arts and Humanities Academy kids. I asked them to answer the question and then to create an original meme. They were nothing short of amazing. You can see some of them here. I made one too.
Then I had them go back and do prompt #25 focused on individual internet presence. It was interesting to go back and forth about positive and negative digital footprints, and to share stories about interesting (and “interesting”) results of being out there on the interwebz. The conversation was lively and nearly every student had something to share:
- “Is it fair for colleges and employers to “stalk” you?”
- “Facebook owns your posts?!”
- “Can you actually have private settings?”
- “What is Google +?” (Okay, that was mine…)
- “Okay, you know you Google yourself…”
- “Wait, what if you Google yourself and it is not you but it says it is you?”
- “Maybe everyone should just use fake names.”
It went on and on. We talked about the weirdness of people you have not seen in ages talking to you about your most recent activities because they “saw it on Facebook”, or about people you did not know acting like they did know you because of your digital footprint. We talked about the effects of anonymity. At the initial board meeting we discussed the pros and cons of letting the kids use pseudonyms and it was a unanimous consensus that anonymity breeds false behavior at best, and downright awful at worst. My students tended to agree, though they liked the idea of anonymity in cases, they admitted it was generally to post things that they didn’t feel totally comfortable with otherwise. And like all things, that can be both good and bad.
The next prompt that we did was #32 about the gay marriage debate. This was a response to Obama’s declaration that he believed that gay couples should have the right to marry. This was the least inspired conversation of them all. All of my students had the same answer: “Uh, yeah.” And then that was it. I even tried to do the teacher thing and play devil’s advocate and offer some reasons why people might not agree with it, or that this was just some policy-shmolicy on Obama’s part.
I was met with totally blank stares.
Granted, I work in Berkeley, but none the less, I felt quite proud that my students couldn’t even get on board with why this was a discussion. I bet Rachel Maddow would be proud.
Thus far, the experience has been really positive. Case in point: one of my most interesting (read: very bright and disengaged) told me this project has been the absolute best, he really likes it (and his memes were awesome.) You can meet him here. Further, the Twitter learning curve seems totally encouraging, I think the 140 character limit must be comforting to them. In reality, the challenge of such a limit tricks them into creativity. Well, sometimes it does, but I remain ever the optimist.