The world we live in today shows “…the largest increase in expressive capability in human history”, according to Clay Shirky. He explains the significance of new and emerging technologies such as Social Media and demonstrates clearly that the way we communicate with each other has changed immensely. Clay Shirky gives the example of the Sichuan earthquake where the BBC found out about the terrible event via Twitter.com and that the last time China had had an earthquake by such magnitude it took more than three months before the the Chinese government released details about the event.
Shirky emphasises the point that new tools such as Twitter and FaceBook help citizens in repressive regimes to report on real news, bypassing censors (however briefly). Mr Ahmadinejad’s controversial re-election in June 2009 and the subsequent protests, some of which were violent, generated immense global interest. Twitter became a genuine tool which many protesters used to spread what was taking place, including uploading images of some of the worst clashes between protesters and military. We followed updates using ‘hashtags’ in Twitter. These hashtags are added to your post which act like a mini channel which others can follow and read so for example during the Iran elections protesters used #iranelections to only follow updates from what was happening. There were even websites such as Mashable that provided readers with guides on how to follow the elections via Twitter.
It seems that many counties in the UK have opted to ban, block or discourage the use of Twitter, or any Social Media tool for that matter, as Twitter can leave students open to a range of different problems. The interesting question is of course: Shouldn’t we use Twitter in the classroom so that students learn how to use it well and about potential issues with social media so they know what to do and what to look out for? It is crucial that teachers and educators give students the right skills to be able to use these new online tools. There are some teachers and educators that do use Twitter well to engage and challenge students to learn and those who are new to WEB 2.0 tools must be shown the way.
On Clay Shirky
Clay Shirky’s talk can be found on TED.com. Make a cup of coffee (or tea!) and enjoy 20-odd minutes of brilliance. If you found his talk interesting then do not hesitate to buy his book which is equally fascinating: Here Comes Everybody: how change happens when people come together . In a similar vein, Charles Leadbeater has also examined the way we communicate and collaborate nowadays in his brilliant book We Think: not mass production, mass innovation.
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