Monday, January 13, 2014

Ice Storm Fury and Tweaking Twitter Thoughts

Last Tuesday, the weather in Ontario was especially cold. Some school boards closed for the day. Others, such as mine, stayed open. What I didn't realize until much later was that this decision launched an avalanche of Twitter tirades. Some of the tweets were actually quite inappropriate and/or had harsh things to say about the school boards.

My school board took a rather unique approach to the furious tweets - they responded to each one. I was actually pretty impressed that they used humour and I said as much online.
However, a fellow Twitter user brought a different perspective in reply. @inquiringminds9 has protected his/her tweets, so it doesn't look like I can replicate them through embedding, so permit me to paraphrase. S/he respectfully disagreed, because s/he said that the most important ways to deal with trolls are to ignore, block, and delete posts. He/she also said that boards have outed students and publicly mentioned the schools that angry tweeters have attended, which is a policy he/she is uncomfortable with. S/he also felt that "sassy" responses from a school board were not professional. After reading and considering this point of view, I had to concede that it did have some merit. We do teach our students that ignoring and blocking offensive emails or texts is the proper way to handle cyberbullying. I'm not sure if the rules should differ based on if the target is an individual or an organization. This was my last exchange with @inquiringminds9, although I wish we could have continued our conversation. It challenged my thinking in a good way.

Many people were talking about the Twitter tirade between school boards and irate students. Doug Peterson and Tim King both wrote wonderful blog posts about the issue, and I thought to myself that I wouldn't need to say anything else about the issue on my blog, since they did such a wonderful job articulating the main ideas. However, a Twitter interchange between Andrew Campbell and Cal Armstrong led me back to the topic. Their discussion was civil but spirited, and just as I thought that the situation had been resolved in my head, Brian Woodland interjected with a valuable point. Here's the exchange:

The reason why I eventually decided to write a blog post about this series of events was not to cover the same ground that Doug and Tim (or even Andrew, Cal and Brian) did. My "big idea" is that Twitter can be used for respectful discourse that involves disagreement. I was surprised to see how my opinion could alter based on the few concise words of friends or strangers. I want to focus on the positive aspects of this news story, and for me, it is the possibility of interacting with others in a way to invoke changing minds and hearts. I'm still disturbed by some of the ugly ways some people chose to express themselves, but that's not the way it has to be. Let me end on a truly positive note. Remember last week's blog post about how delightful it is to interact with authors online? I happened to mention to my intermediate students that several of their favourite authors are active on Twitter, and one of the students decided independently to attempt first contact. This was the result:

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