Dear Stephen Toope,
I saw this quote from you, the President of UBC, in my issue of Trek recently and it made my heart sink. I’ve been thinking about your statement for a while because I wanted to try to understand where you were coming from and what message you were trying to convey.
I am quite shocked that the president of an educational institution like UBC, and specifically an institution that trains teachers, would make such a statement. I am sure you have heard your share of backlash from this quote. I just wanted to present to you my thoughts as a UBC alumni, an administrator and a teacher.
When I joined Twitter not that long ago I, too, had my heels dug deep. I viewed Twitter as another time waster I didn’t need to introduce to an already busy life. Initially, I did not see the value of it either. I joined, though, because some of my colleagues wouldn’t stop gushing about it and because I secretly wanted to prove to them that I would hate it. So, I joined and jumped in with both feet… boy was I ever quickly eating humble pie.
Twitter has flattened the walls of society. I am able to directly connect with people I could never dream of connecting with before. Recently I attended the ConnectEd Canada conference in Calgary. Through Twitter I was able to easily connect with the organizers, the speakers, and fellow attendees. What made it even more exciting was that we made an effort to meet face to face and connect even more. The conversations I have had, and the potential projects these connections have sparked, are all a result of Twitter.
Twitter has been a tool that has led to deep reflections and connections in the education community. It also has been an outlet for people who are too shy to share at conferences, workshops and meetings. But, you suggest that nothing of importance can be communicated in the limited number of allowable characters Twitter provides. As well, you are concerned with the immediacy of the medium. Why does it have to stop at the limited number of characters? You can just send another tweet! Why do you have to respond immediately? You can quote people and respond to them later, sparking more conversation at another time!
I am proud to say that my school district has welcomed Twitter. We have our own hashtag stream where people from the district and outside of the district share, collaborate, and celebrate all in the name of improving education. We also have recently started holding a weekly chat time every Sunday night where people who are interested gather on our hashtag stream to chat about a preplanned topic. The topics have included inquiry based learning, assessment practices, and success stories. Weekly chats like this are happening all over Twitter.
I invite you to join twitter… even under an alias! Give it a try. Take a look at the many hashtag streams related to education that are out there. You can not negate the potential of a tool without trying it yourself. Oh, and if you do, let me know @teachermrskhan so I can follow you!