The Revolution will not be Televised, it will be on Twitter (How I experienced the new literacies during the Iranian election)

We see the question all the time on what does 21st century literacy mean for our students?

There are numerous answers floating out on the internet so I reflected on the NCTE version, because in its narrowest traditional and simplistic definition literacy has to do with learning English and the ability to read, write and participate in society. The problem is that many teachers do not understand that the means through which competency is accomplished has radically shifted as many teachers have seen the Shift Happens video and with it the expectations and demands on how teachers need to guide students to achieve this new definition of literacy.

In reflecting back on my experience last night it met all the 21st century standards as presented:

I felt that I was able to achieve a clearer picture last night as to the new literacies that I need to direct my students toward when I watched the citizens of Iran react to the Iranian election. It really started out with a few “tweets” from teachers on Twitter. In particular one from Larry Ferlazzo caught my eye.

The link took me to a the story of Twitter still being accessible to citizens even though all other communication means was being shut down as well as a raw embeded Youtube video

How different is this video from a mainstream media or classroom download from Discovery Education streaming and yet how much more powerful is this video in displaying the events of what was happening. How should a teacher prepare a student so that they can “understand” unedited, raw, footage?

At this point I chose to stay with Twitter as my means of accessing information I pulled up Tweet grid and put Iran Election into the search as a hashtag (#iranelection).

Again do we teach students how to use hashtags, where to access information be it RSS or Twitter or other social networks? If a student has grown used to trusting the sources or their information how will they ever cope with information feeds that can be contradictory and confusing?

So besides the question of whether a student would have the knowledge of where to look for information, in looking at the screencast what other sorts of information might a student need to have knowledge of? Are there recognizable names or trusted sources of information? Would a student understand the various hashtags and when and how to use them? Would a student understand the purpose of RT or re-tweeting and how it was being used? If your not used to seeing converted URLs so that they are smaller for tweets would someone click on them? For a student not familiar might they appear to be meaningless and not good potential for information? This year I had several student trying to use the URL addresses as a means of searching and I’ve seen this at other times as well.

I was struck by not only the amount of information, but also that people seemed to be sharing, concerned, and trying to be helpful. Lastly what I noticed in the feed was the fact that none of the other mainstream media services that I would normally use CNN, MSN, was providing much information if any.

Twitter was the primary source of finding information. The hashtag #iranelection became my tag for my Diigo bookmarks. I figured I would later go back and add more tags but was just trying to keep up with the stream of information.

Where did the links that were being shared lead to, what else but to many of the websites that are filtered or blocked in school districts. First off it was fascinating to see twitter feeds by people in Iran reporting events as they happened.


For general election information there was of course the updated Wikipedia page. There was pictures from Flickr for example here, pictures on Twitpic here , videos on Youtube here and here, links to Iranian citizens posting on Twitter, some people were aggregating links for others here and here as well as videos and many mainstream media sites such as the BBC who were also posting pictures and videos, and online newspapers that could take large periods of time to track down and filter . And even organized protests for different cities and online petitions.

By the time I scrambled off to bed I felt overwhelmed but informed. I had the lingering question of how do we begin to prepare our students for an experience such as this when classrooms are prevented from using them as teaching tools? There is no possible way to begin to understand the idea of taking an overwhelming amount of information in the noise vs. valued information context unless a direct experience of and practice with occurs. Learning in this manner is learning to ignore and filter out was is unimportant or redundant, not how we teach when we expect students to know the minutest arcane details in a text book written by an academic.

What were educators on Twitter doing. Earlier in the day I had read a blog post by Rob Jacobs that Miguel Guhlin had shared about moving teachers from a PLC to a “professional networked learning collaborative.” Many of the educators in my PLN were participating and reading and writing as the events were happening and it reminded me of the potential power of a PLN network graphic that Rob had created

At one point in my Tweetdeck feed all the members of my PLN were sharing something about the situation in Iran.

It showed not only the power of members of a PLN being connected to a network but also gave me a sense of satisfaction seeing people step up and participate by sharing and crediting sources of information as they were found, good digital citizens all 🙂 I can’t think of a better example of what 21st Century literacy means than my experiences from last night.

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