There is a reason Twitter asks “What are you doing?” instead of “What are you thinking?” and I learned it today. Twitter is good for many things and I find it to be an invaluable part of my day, but its greatest flaw is also its greatest strength: Twitter is simple. By being so incredibly simple, great innovations and conversations can be built on top of it. Unfortunately, its simplicity can also mask the nuances of language and humanity. I discovered this the hard way: through
trial and error.
Yesterday, I made the regrettable mistake of reading far too much into an innocent tweet:
@arthus Play with Group and Search. Then read about how the program works technically.
Upon the excellent suggestion of ijohnpederson, I had downloaded TweetDeck, an excellent app built on top of the AIR platform, and informed my followers of the fact. Upon reading the above tweet, I saw it as a lesson plan in 140 characters.
Summer is a time when I like to avoid being taught. (Though I do love learning during the summer.) Almost every twit I follow is an excellent teacher, with ijohnpederson being no exception. In my opinion, a hallmark of a great teacher is seizing upon teachable moments, until it becomes a subconscious process. Unfortunately, this is in direct conflict with the desires of a student during the summer. This was one lesson which came at the wrong time, with the wrong content. Considering the informal attitude of Twitter, I think both students and teachers need to adapt by seeing each-other as fellow learners. In this enviroment, passive learning should be encouraged, but I believe actionable teaching should be avoided—both teachers and students and teachers benefit from having time away from the classroom, whether it is virtual or physical.
Regardless of percieved and undesired lessons, I over-reacted. I could say I was being a whiny teenager, a influenced by hormones, or a little boy in a grown-up’s word, but the fact is that I simply misjudged the situation and reacted in an unacceptable way. By continually digging myself deeper into a pit of miscommunication, I irrationally exacerbated the problem. What should have been a quick conversation spiraled into an embarrassing and, frankly, pathetic display of my own immaturity. For that, I apologize to all involved.
Of course, this situation is not new: for ages, teenagers and adults have miscommunicated and been in conflict. The difference is that the entire conversation, every mistake and every response, is indexed and searchable for all of eternity. As Ryan Bretag rightly points out, this entire incedent (and the oh-so-mature responses of my elders) has become a part of my digital footprint:
Is this fair that this will forever be part of his virtual footprint? I understand he chose to be part of this so my point is a bit different than I’m describing here. My point is what about all the things teachers have students doing online where it isn’t a choice but the teacher’s mandate that some, most, a little, whatever of their learning, risk-taking, mistakes, failures, and success are public by way of the Web 2.0 tools we hold so close.
Honestly, I’m not here to attack participatory media. I’m simply expressing something that I’ve been pondering of late and it is something that I would say needs to be discussed. Are we doing our students a disservice by wanting so much of their learning to be shared through the tools provided by today’s Internet? Should this be a choice made by each student? Do they truly understand the gravity of such a decision? Will anything in their future be impacted, positively or negatively, because of this public display of their learning?
In response, I believe that it is valuable to have this conversation as a part of my digital footprint. Learning done in a vacuum is not nearly as valuable as participatory learning. Just as I would pay more for a meal that I can see being cooked in front of me, I believe people will grow to value knowledge and wisdom which has a backstory. Who people are now and how they got to this place is becoming intermingled: the past is no longer shrouded in mystery. I believe this is a good thing, because it has always been so: a person is made of the sum of his past, his present, and his plans for the future. The crucial difference now is that someone from the outside looking in can now see the past as well as the present, while before they could only see parts of the present. Plus, I think it’ll be fun to laugh at my own immaturity in 40 years as I bounce around the galaxy.
Actually, it is somewhat heartening that such a simple exchange between a student and an adult has generated so much controversy and discussion: now, more than ever, students are being listened to and, yes, rebuked when they deserve rebuking. I certainly don’t think this should reflect upon the other members of Students 2.0, as I am certainly the craziest (read: immature) one of them.
I apologize to all invovled for my immature communication and behavior.