Sweet Tweet – The Power of Social Networking

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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