Sweet Tweet – The Power of Social Networking

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At the beginning of this month, President Obama broadcast on national television the death of the terrorist and 9-11 mastermind Osama Bin Laden. However, Twitter and social networking played an important role in the way people around the world became informed.

The first innocuous tweet was sent Sohaib Athar, a 33 year old programmer living in the town of Abbottabad, Pakistan. His moment in history began with the tweet “Helicopter hovering above Abbottabad at 1AM (is a rare event).” He went on to “live blog” what he was witnessing as the covert operation to capture Osama Bin Laden unfolded.

Those connected by Twitter may have learned of the death of Bin Laden well before President Obama made his historic television broadcast. Keith Urbahn, the Chief of Staff for former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, tweeted “I’m told by a reputable person they have killed Osama Bin Laden”. This first credible tweet, regarding Bin Laden’s death, was followed up by Jill Scott, a CBS news producer, who confirmed the rumour by tweeting “House Intelligence committee aide confirms that Osama Bin laden is dead. U.S. has the body.”

Upon reflection, the power of Twitter and social networking became quite apparent when these news-breaking, 140 character messages, were re-tweeted hundreds of times. In fact, a significant number of Twitter users, who closely follow news-breaking stories, were informed of Bin Laden’s death well in advance of the U.S. President’s television announcement.

I admit, that although I use Twitter and the TweetDeck application to network with educators, I learned of Bin Laden’s death when my son phoned to suggest that I turn on my T.V. to watch President Obama’s announcement. However, it was Alice Barr’s following tweet, which once again demonstrated the power of the Internet and social networking when she stated:

Wikipedia entry for Bin Laden already edited. Wild

Tweet Details: Received – Sunday, May 1, 2011.
– Originally sent or “tweeted” by Maine technology educator, Alice Barr aka @alicebarr.
– Re-Tweeted (RT) by PR facilitator for The Manitoba Teachers’ Society, Raymond Job aka @raysadad.

That evening, when I investigated Alice’s tweet and searched for “Osama Bin Laden, the Wikipedia article had already been updated. On the right side of the web page, surrounding the terrorist’s picture were the recently modified birth and death dates of “March 10, 1957 – May 1, 2011 (aged 54)” and the “Place of death” was identified as “Abbottabad, Pakistan”.

The following brief paragraph was already entered on the left side of the web page:

“On May 1, 2011, U.S. President Barack Obama announced on national television that bin Laden had been killed in Abbottabad, Pakistan and that his body was in U.S. custody.”

This “sweet tweet” entry reinforces the immediacy and power of social networking and we, as teachers, need to be aware and thoroughly investigate ways in which we can capitalize on this educational opportunity.

Take care & keep smiling :-)

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Sweet Tweet – Twitter for Teachers

Info, Professional Development, Sweet Tweet 2 Comments »

Twitter turns five years of age this month. Co-founder, Jack Dorsey, sent the world’s first twitter message: “just setting up my twttr” on March 21, 2006. Undoubtedly, in five short years, Twitter has changed the way many of us communicate and share information.

For those unfamiliar with Twitter, it is a free, social networking and micro-blogging service that runs on both computers and internet-connected mobile devices. Since this communication service was designed to be used by people “on the move”, each message or “tweet” is limited to 140 characters so it can be easily displayed on the smaller cell phone screens.

As an educator, I use Twitter. I must admit that at first I could not see the benefit of receiving “tweets” that described what a person ate for breakfast, what music one was currently listening to, what sports team another individual was cheering for, or someone asking his/her “followers” for suggestions on how to train their dog. However, although these “somewhat superfluous” messages, in my humble opinion (often compressed in “tweets” as IMHO), still are sent, I find they take up far less than 10% of all my Twitter messages. Such unique messages do add a dimension to the individual sender of which one may not necessarily be aware. It is the remaining 90% of Twitter traffic that exposes me to interesting, educational activities and resources. In fact, it is Rodd Lucier’s “Twitter Bingo for Education” image that cleverly summarizes a variety of ways educators may use Twitter.

Having now used Twitter for more than a year, I thought that I should create this new blog category called “Sweet Tweet”.  Here, I hope to share meaningful, succinct messages that I think are unique and inspiring. As my first “Sweet Tweet”, I thought I would share the a powerful message from Kevin Kindred of Halifax, Nova Scotia. Following the recent tsunami and the resulting nuclear accident, Kevin provides an insightful perspective into most jobs when he compares his with a Japanese nuclear worker:

RT @kevinkindred: Japanese nuclear worker on the news: “I am prepared to die to avoid meltdown.”   <I will not complain about my job today.>

Tweet Details: Received – Thursday, March 17, 2011.
– Originally sent or “tweeted” by Kevin Kindred aka @kevinkindred.
– Re-Tweeted (RT) by Swan River educator, Ryan Maksymchuk aka @biggmaxx.

I encourage educators to register for a free Twitter account. Don’t feel that you need to contribute right away. Rather, be a lurker, and “follow” other educators with whom you feel a common grade, subject, interest or passion. Manitoba teachers might consider following some of the educators listed in the wiki called “Manitoba Teachers Who Tweet“.  I’m sure that in time you will find Twitter to be a powerful tool in helping to share knowledge and expand your personal learning network.

To help get you started using Twitter, I provide the following resources:

I encourage readers to share their favourite tweets with me for possible inclusion in future “Sweet Tweets”. One may send them by Twitter to me at @bkmetcalfe, in this blog post “Comment”, or by email to Brian<dot>Metcalfe<at>life-long-learners<dot>com.

In closing, I trust that you will come to appreciate Howard Rheingold, when he stated, “I think successful use of Twitter means knowing how to tune the network of people you follow, and how to feed the network of people who follow you”.

Take care & keep smiling :-) Brian

– Flickr Creative Commons image “Twitter Bingo for Educators” by Rodd Lucier aka thecleversheep
Free Twitter Bird Icon Set from Gopal Raju with a special thanks to Chris Metcalfe for the “tweet bubble” graphic enhancement.

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