This is the second in a series of posts based on a presentation at the 2012 Virtual Worlds Best Practices in Education Conference.Some educators are troubled by our pervasively net-connected lives. They contend that constant multitasking and info-surfing undermine their students' ability to sustain full attention on anything except the briefest and most stimulating entertainment. But I contend that relentless multitasking is a practical adaptation to the emerging technological environment. It is as inevitable and unstoppable as the electric light was 150 years ago. Our lives demand that we learn to live appropriately within the reality of our current information ecosystem. Arguing against it is the modern equivalent of fighting the wheel. That’s why I believe it’s important to start creating curriculum that leverages new mediums instead of clinging to past formats that are no longer appropriate.
Public communication used to be a one-way flow from a handful of media giants to the global masses. Like the old adage said, freedom of the press was only for those who could afford to own one. But times are changing. Today, millions of people around the world are reversing the tide by publishing creative work that expresses their personal points of view.
Of couse, it’s not all gold. As a matter of fact, it’s mostly crap. I could die happy if I never saw another meme. But if we look at the explosion of social networking, media sharing and blogging as steps along an evolutionary continuum, I believe it calls upon us to actualize the educational potential.
One thing we need to learn to thrive in the current environment is how to to express our ideas through compelling condensed narratives. Twitter posts are an ideal exercise format.
My favorite Twitter micro-storyteller is Whiskey Monday. Her Twitter stream is filled with slice-of-life tweets about caring for two teen daughters, a sister with cancer and a mother with a head injury. She call is "Head Injury Theater." Here’s how she described her situation in a blog post:
My sister’s chemo has weakened her to the point that she stays in a rocking chair 24/7, criticizing me like Norman Bates’ mother. My mom moved here from the Brain Injury Rehab Center last week, and she’s just a big toddler with a wicked tongue. I’ve got my 10 yr old niece to care for, my own kids to deal with, my mom’s AND my sister’s houses to care for in addition to my own and to top it all off, I lost my teaching job.
Whiskey's tweets are tiny masterpieces that tell the compelling story of her day-to-day life. My favorites are short dialogues between house members:
"Mom don't stand up in the bathtub til l get back." - "Okay I'll just lie down." - "No mom, don't lie down either."
"Why won't Gran wake up?" - "Orange Dramamine tastes like candy." - "Oh. Grab her arms, I'll get her feet."
19: "Either your waffles are burning or the toaster has chosen a new pope."Whiskey's posts aren't just witty and entertaining. They they also demonstrate the creative and therapeutic potential of writing and sharing micro-stories. She wrote:
“Twitter has kept my brain forming thoughts at a time when I couldn’t do much else. Twitter kept my sense of humor stimulated, which in turn has kept me from going postal on my family." She went on to write: “My life is still funny; I still see the humor in my situations. But I see 140 characters worth of humor, not a whole blog post. Because if I start a blog post, well, I’ll have to go there. Who has time for that??”By using our lives as fodder for narrative posts like Whiskey’s, we can transcend our usual state of hyper-subjectivity and become more conscious of the dynamics of the stories we’re living.
The next post in this series will look at parody tweets and the great late @SecondLie