Tag Archives: Twitter

the summer (institute) of twitter

As Chance the Gardner from Being There was often fond of saying, “I like to watch.”

And watch I have as NWP colleagues from around the country have taken to tweeting their experiences. Most are currently in some stage of beginning or ending their summer institutes, an event that gathers local teachers together to share practice, engage in a look at current research, write and enjoy the bonding that occurs when you put 20 or so teachers together in a room for 4 weeks.

When I went through my Summer Institute back in the late 90’s, I had very little sense of the national infrastructure of the writing project. I knew only my own Western Massachusetts Writing Project and had a vague notion that we were part of something bigger. It wasn’t until I attended the first NWP Annual Meeting a few years later that I realized the true scope of this teacher professional development organization.

So it’s with astonishment and admiration that I see April Estep in West Virginia sharing her morning writing prompts with Thomas Maerke, who himself is recording video of conversations in Missouri. Steve Moore in Kansas City posts one of the most moving readings I’ve ever heard, right from his phone, and that reading by one of the facilitators of his institute gets retweeted in moments. Cynthia Younger, also in Kansas City, is encouraged to develop her first blog by Steve Moore and then goes on Twitter to seek blogging advice. All the while, Paul Hankins and Donalyn Miller and Bud Hunt and Andrea Zellner and Kevin Hodgson, among a myriad of others, shout out encouragement from their corners of the country.

I could go on and on – from Philadelphia to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to Monterrey Bay in California, summer institute teachers are providing a window into their daily work and play.

As I said, I’m astonished. Not because I thought these teachers were incapable of connecting with each other and sharing in this way. I realize that this is what has been happening on Twitter for many educators over the past few years.

It’s more that I didn’t fully understand the power of what would be unleashed when summer institutes connected. As Carl Whithaus so aptly put it in his tweet which I pasted above, it is the “dual sense of community” that has emerged and that has now been – and I’d bet money that this is true – cemented. The way in which, dialectically, a face-to-face experience has supported the use of social media, and social media has in turn amplified the face-to-face moment.

It is the summer (institute) of Twitter.

I like to watch.

And listen.

And, as it turns out, even participate.

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disorganized sports?

I had a recent conversation on Twitter with Ira Socol about the Jets at the start of their improbable march through the playoffs. It began after Ira reminisced about seeing THE Jets-Raiders playoff game at Shea on Dec. 29, 1968.

That brief exchange got me to thinking about growing up playing football with my friends in Flushing, former home of the Jets. In elementary school, we tried to get up a game each Sunday morning on a grassy field near the local Y. We each had gotten our families to buy us a football helmet and shoulder pads – no small thing, especially for those of us who were poor. I had a purple and white Vikings helmet – I followed my brother’s lead, and he liked the Vikes – and a sky-blue LA Rams jersey. But no one of us had the same uniform or helmet. We were a small, motley crew, playing on a small patch of grass and mud which, during Jets’ home games, had a view of the tops of Shea’s tall halogen floodlights about a mile away.

Once in a while, we’d get the urge to walk to Shea and “sneak” in after halftime, when the gates would be thrown open, ostensibly to allow ticket-holding fair-weather fans to leave. (Because at that time, the Jets were pretty bad.)

During the week, after school, we’d play two-hand touch in the asphalt-covered parking lot at the Hebrew school, eschewing the heavy equipment of helmets and shoulder pads. All we needed was a ball and a sliver of space. The parking lot was generally empty, but you always had to watch out so as not to collide with the random parked car. David, Charles and Mark would sometimes join us after Hebrew school was over. I’m not sure if we looked completely odd, this racially mixed group of kids playing football in the synagogue parking lot. Or whether Flushing was so used to this kind of integrated tableau that no one gave us a second look.

Later, in high school, I played touch football with my friends on a small strip of concrete in the West Village, in the front courtyard of the NYU graduate family housing complex. No first downs because the length of the “field” was too short. It was vital to stay on your feet because the concrete was unforgiving and staunching bloodflow during the long subway ride home back to Queens was annoying, to say the least. My friends and I from Stuyvesant would play with kids who lived in the buildings. We never had a scheduled time – the games formed organically.

Of course, disputes often arose. Rules were argued – “You said the car was out of bounds.” Roles were vied for. Scores were contested.

But in the end, we worked things out ourselves.

All this – the helmets and jerseys, the nearly daily football games, the walks to Shea – all this happened and not one of my friends was ever killed or kidnapped or maimed. Maybe we were lucky. But maybe being in charge also made us slightly more careful and caring of one another. In fact, I’ve always been mystified as to why adult-supervised sports, like football, are referred to as “organized.” As though what we kids were able to do in the synagogue parking lot and on the concrete at the NYU towers was the opposite, or wasn’t based on organization. That somehow adult supervision equals better, safer, less chaotic – a demeaning of what kids are able to accomplish on their own.

I say let’s stop using the term organized when referring to sports leagues for kids. Unless we distinguish between “adult organized”and “kid organized.” Because  kids can be very organized when it comes to the things they care about.

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soup to nuts (redux)

According to an NPR piece that came across my news feed, there’s a fascinating dictionary of American Regional English that has been published in sections over the past 50 years. The final volume, S-Z, will be available next year.

The story begins with an anecdote about Bill Clinton:

In 1993, President Clinton was giving a news conference when someone mentioned that a certain Air Force official had criticized him. “How could he say that about me?” Clinton responded. “He doesn’t know me from Adam’s off ox.”

The piece goes on to wonder if regional phrases are dying off as we become more twitter-ized and therefore more uniform in our online, web-based writing patterns. This seemed to be borne out in the story:

But when this reporter tested out some words from the DARE at a Starbucks in suburban Detroit, none of the patrons seemed familiar with a “monkey’s wedding” (a chaotic, messy situation in Maine); “cockroach killers” (pointy shoes in New Jersey) or “mumble squibbles” (noogies, North Carolina-style).

(Her first mistake, it seems to me, was going to a suburban Detroit Starbucks to see if people were aware of regional phrases.)

One of the benefits of my job is that I get to meet teachers from all over the country. So I’ve definitely heard my share of regional expressions, which I love. “Rode hard and put up wet” is probably my favorite, said by Amy from Louisville one night describing the way Britney Spears looked as her image flashed across a tv screen. Apparently, it’s a horse-riding expression, so it makes sense that it comes from the land of the Kentucky Derby. And I’m sure you can guess that it ain’t complimentary.

Championing regional sayings is the equivalent to me of buying local to prevent the overrunning of our communities by look-alike chain stores and restaurants.

In fact, more than archiving these expressions in dictionaries, we should be figuring out ways they can be used in everyday speech. A facebook app, perhaps, that flashes and beeps you when your status updates are too regionally bland.

Not for nothin, I think that’s a good idea.

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why she tweet

This from Claire McCaskill, US Senator from Missouri (democrat), in a letter to the editor in the May 10 issue of the Sunday NY Times:

After reading Matt Bai’s piece last weekend (April 26), I’d like to explain why I tweet. His thesis is that Twitter is banal and superficial, and yes, it can be. But it has redeeming value in the context of my job.

First, through Twitter, I am able to post information daily on a public bulletin board about serious policy issues. These short messages are intended to drive thought and discussion rather than provide a thorough analysis of the issue.

Second, tweeting is a discipline that keeps me connected. Between hearings and votes, I think of what I want to tell the folks at home – after all, I’m in Washinton to work for them.

Third, I use Twitter because no one can edit me. In a world driven by edited sound bites, and a Capitol Hill culture that parses, obfuscates and works hard at saying nothing, we shouldn’t look down our noses at a few short declarative sentences.

Finally, it’s fun. Part of the problem in Washington is that folks take themselves too seriously. As I tweet about work and even the mundane parts of my life, I’m staying connected and grounded, and I have a smile on my face.

Well put, clairecmc. Let us never look down our noses at a few short declarative sentences.

Here’s her Twitter feed: http://twitter.com/clairecmc (she’s following 1 person and being followed by over 24k)

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