Friday, April 11, 2014

Don't Be a Twit, Get on the Twitter!

“There's no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share.”
Steve Ballmer, USA Today, April 30, 2007.

Sometime around 1990 I attended the National School Boards Association Technology Conference in Dallas.  The vendor hall was filled with exciting new technology!  I recall seeing a 20 pound Apple “portable” computer and IBM was touting their latest System 36 “minicomputer” which was about the size of Smart Car and had less computing power than your grandpa’s flip phone.

But the seminal moment for me was when I got stuck talking to a salesman from a company called America Online. He was excitedly describing how one could sit in New York and write an electronic message to someone in California!  It was free and instantaneous!  As I am a technology visionary and savant, my answer was “Why wouldn’t I just pick up the phone and call?”  Really? Electronic mail?  It will never catch on. 

About ten years later as superintendent in Emporia, I recall visiting with new teachers every year at the beginning year.  I would ask them how many had email accounts.  In the early years, a smattering of nerds would raise their hands, but after about three years it became a dumb question to ask. 

Today we live in a world defined by Moore’s Law.  Computing power is increasing exponentially and its power in communication moves equally fast.  Living in a house with two teenage girls I have seen Facebook, Vine, Snapchat, YikYak and a host of other social media come and go.  One thing that seems to have some staying power is Twitter.  Because we have established that I am a visionary when it comes to technology, I never really saw the power of twitter.  I used it to share and receive news and journal articles and for entertainment value.

After the last weekend of the legislative session, I realized the true power of Twitter.  It excels as an event-based social media tool.  I should have noticed this before because I have watched twitter during KU basketball games to see Fake Jeff Withey’s comments, during the last episode of Breaking Bad to share an experience with like-minded fanboys, and while watching Chief’s games to share the pain.  Twitter is about being there even when you can’t be there.

The last weekend of the legislative session, even though I was 800 miles away from Topeka, I was up at 2:00 AM with all of the rest of those political junkies, sharing in the experience with those who were actually there.  It was fascinating to watch and learn.  Rumors started, peaked, and ended or became truth in waves that might last minutes or even seconds.  Lobbyists and journalists interact with regular folks, exchanging information and sorting through the noise to develop a picture of what is really happening. (Special shout out to @tallman_mark and @tomkrebs1.)

Twitter allows everyone to be part of the action, see different views and perspectives, and share their own.  By the time the newspaper is printed, it is old news.  Skeptics like to quote Michael Scott from the office who said, “Wikipedia is the best thing ever. Anyone, in the world, can write anything they want about any subject. So you know you are getting the best possible information.”  Michael’s ironic statement fails to take into account that journalists are now some of the most active voices on Twitter, and their reputations depend on accuracy in tweets as much as in print or on the air. 

I am a convert, and new converts are the worst about proselytizing, but school leaders need to embrace social media.  Facebook, Twitter, and whatever kids are using now that I haven’t even heard of are essential to communicating both during “events” and for general information.  So get on the Google machine, search up The Twitter, start yourself an account, and get in the game.


  1. Glad to see this post, John!

    Since I've been on Twitter (spring 2007), I have gained thousands of hours of learning and brain-stretching that has really been THE best professional learning I've ever had. Ever.

    If someone's not on there right now (and not just have an account, but actually involved in connecting big thoughts with people they don't see every day), they're about 6 years behind. And in this world, that's a HUGE gap to try to back fill. Plant that figurative tree today.

    And if someone only shares pictures of bull dogs and barbecue (and that's all they share), then stop following them. That's your fault. Learn hashtags (such as #ksed) and get focused on things that matter to YOU.

  2. Peaches is a Boxer, not a bulldog!


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