Tag Archives: Twitter

Get It Right – Popular Media and Fact Checking: On Sufjan Stevens’ Open Letter to Miley Cyrus

15 Oct

Lately, all the cool kids have been writing Miley Cyrus open letters. This past weekend Sufjan Stevens’ hopped on the bandwagon and penned a quick note to Miley on his tumblr regarding her song “#GetItRight”.

Sufjan makes a compelling argument regarding grammar usage in the song.

“I been laying in this bed all night long.” Miley, technically speaking, you’ve been LYING, not LAYING, an irregular verb form that should only be used when there’s an object, i.e. “I been laying my tired booty on this bed all night long.”

He continues (garnering a LOL from me):

But also, Miley, did you know the tense here is also totally wrong. Surely you’ve heard of Present Perfect Continuous Tense (I HAVE BEEN LYING in this bed all night long [hopefully getting some beauty sleep?]). It’s a weird, equivocal, almost purgatorial tense, not quite present, not quite past, not quite here, not quite there. Somewhere in between.

Sufjan is (gently?) poking some fun at Miley’s grammar and songwriting skills. However, there is a major flaw in his argument. Miley didn’t write the song. Pharrell has sole writing credit for #GetItRight.

I have been perusing a lot of articles covering Sufjan’s open letter. Not a single one has commented on the fact she didn’t write it. So not only did Sufjan not factcheck, neither did many major news publications. Including Pitchfork.com, EOnline.Com, Us Weekly, NME.Com, and even the Huffington Post.

Miley is a hot topic right now, for a myriad of reasons. But before you go ahead and write an open letter, take a moment to check a few facts first before you send it out into the world of the internet.


Modern Friendship and The Cult of Accessibility

16 May

Are We Still On For Lunch?

Are We Still On For Lunch?

Dear readers, colleagues, coworkers, friends, and family,

I know we’ve all done it — you’ve received a text, an email, a facebook wall post or message — and you’ve ignored it for whatever reason. You’re in the middle of a movie, or out for dinner, or in the middle of a big project at work.

In the age of social media, we’ve basically thrown privacy out the window. Everyone is a little bit too accessible. There are always new invitations or notifications pending: Facebook, Twitter, G+, Instagram, Vine, the list goes on and on as we add and join more social media.

So sometimes I let my notifications pile up and then I clear them off the screen. I don’t even take a peek. Sometimes I’ll even go as far as to turn on the wonderful “Do Not Disturb” function on my iPhone (It really is a great function — if anyone calls more than twice, the call goes through as it may be an emergency).

But then minutes or hours later when I do have some time to go through them, I make sure I get back to anyone who took the time to reach out to me. So here’s where I get to the crux of my post for today: If everyone is making such a big deal about how accessible they are, why do so many people have trouble taking the time to reach back?

I don’t know how many times when I have texted a friend or even *gasp* called them, and I have received no response. It’s frustrating. It sends me into a spiral of anxiety. And I know that like me, you could be in a movie, at work, spending time with your kids, or doing any other number of countless things. But when 24, 36, 72 hours go by and I haven’t heard back from you? Then it’s time to send a follow-up call, email, text, or what-have-you.

I’m sure this has happened to you all as well. After the follow-up contact, you get the “I’m so sorry! I’ve just been sooooo busy!” Cue the eye roll here.

Because we have all made ourselves so accessible with social media, we all should be able to step up and accept accountability for being so accessible. It’s like how McDonald’s advertises that they are now open 24 hours; you would not be a happy camper if you made your way down to the local Mickey D’s and found them to be anything but open 24 hours.

I for one am making the change starting today. I’m taking the leap and turning on my read receipts on my iPhone — a leap which some of my colleagues and friends have already made, whether they started out with BBM or any of the earlier incarnations. When the read receipts were first introduced I found myself questioning a friend as to why they had chosen to opt in to the receipts. She explained it in the following way:

If someone took the time out of their day to text me a “what’s up?” or “I miss you,” I want them to know that their time matters. I want them to know that I got their text and that it matters. If I don’t reply, I feel like I’m telling them that my time matters more than theirs. It doesn’t.

In the age of social media, where you have all of your “friends” in one handy little list, you can easily lose touch with those friends. You figure “I can chat with them at any time, we’re friends on Facebook!” This has been said many times elsewhere, but this is where social media is hurting us. It is in the day to day personal interactions amoung friends, family, coworkers, colleagues, and even strangers.

So if someone reaches out to you today or tomorrow or two years from now. Be accountable. Sometimes all they’ve been wanting to hear is an “I missed you too.”

Is Social Media Killing the Essay? A Musing

1 Feb

Combing through my inbox backlog can sometimes be a bit tedious, but then I find something in one of the mailing lists or newsletters that I subscribe to that makes me question my position on certain subjects. This morning I quickly skimmed through the January 24th issue of EdSurge Instruct, an independent news and community edtech newsletter.  

 In the issue was a blurb directing me to check out the article, “Art of essay-writing damaged by Twitter and Facebook, Cambridge don warns.”

I myself am an active twitter user and found my first reaction to be a strange one. I hadn’t even READ the article yet, and I felt offended. If I had to rate myself on a scale of 1-10 with how active I am on social media on any given day, I would probably say about a 6. I use it a fair bit, but I am not reading every single tweet or post on my timelines, I subscribe to a fair amount of education-related content, so it’s not like I use the platforms to simply kill time. I’ve written quite a few essays during both of my undergraduate degrees and feel that I am a fairly competent writer and conveyer of my thoughts. However, blogging and tweeting are not the same thing as writing an essay. If I came at blogging and tweeting in the same way that I approach essay writing, I would be “doing it wrong.”

Upon further perusal of the article, this Cambridge professor is hypothesizing that because of modern social media students are arriving in post-secondary institutions without the skills to write a proper essay. After spending my teaching practicums in junior high and high school settings, I would have to agree. But to a point. In my experience, yes, the twenty-first century student is mostly unprepared for the writing of a proper academic essay – but it is not due to social media. When I set about asking a class of grade twelve students if they knew how to write thesis statements I found myself faced with thirty-four blank stares. Not a single one of them even knew what a thesis statement was. So I set about starting from scratch and put my students through a whole essay-writing workshop. Should they have known how to write an essay before this point? The simple answer is yes. The more complicated answer is murky. Depending on (and if!) these students were headed off to post-secondary institutions, did they really need to know how to write an academic essay? In Alberta, many high school students head off into our booming trades sector. Many head off into sciences and engineering. And yes, a few of us head off into the arts. I know that being able to write an essay helps me in everyday life in many ways. It helps me compose emails to my coworkers, write up work procedures, blog, tweet, and even make announcements over the PA system at the Royal Alberta Museum. But it is not the ability to write an essay that helps me with these tasks.

Social Media isn’t killing the essay. We, as teachers, need to start teaching these skills in a twenty-first century context. But that’s a whole other post.

Social media platforms do not lend themselves to the essay format and vice-versa. Which brings me to the questions that EdSurge wanted me to ponder in regards to the article.

What is effective writing? Is a lack of what’s traditionally been considered “good” prose a disadvantage in online communication? Or is the opposite true? What are the most effective ways to  connect with–and persuade–different audiences? What do you think?

What is effective writing?

To me, effective writing, is writing that is well-written and that can catch my attention. No matter how well written the piece is, if there is no personality – no charisma – to the piece, I’ll be thinking “TL;DR” (Too Long; Didn’t Read) and moving on. Effective writing also needs to have a purpose. WHY has the writer chosen to write this piece? Have the introduced me to the 5 W’s? (Forgive me, I’m an English teacher – The Who, What, Where, Why, and When). Has the piece been written with an audience in mind? In my case, my audience is my twitter followers, people who stumble upon my blog, or potential employers. I need to keep that in mind while writing else I dare stumble into unfamiliar territory for my audience. And if it is unfamiliar territory, I need to provide enough background information to entice you to read further. Has the information been organized in a logical manner? Can I follow this person’s argument?

Is a lack of what’s traditionally been considered “good” prose a disadvantage in online communication? Or is the opposite true?

Again, I return to the personality of the writing. If a writer’s style  has caught my attention, I am willing to overlook the occasional grammatical error or spelling mistake. Everyone makes them. There’s probably more than a few in this post. To paraphrase my linguistics professor, If you can say it and it makes sense, who’s to say it’s not grammatically correct? If you can parse the person’s speech or text and still derive meaning, does that mean it’s ‘wrong’? Most grammar is innate and is always evolving. This is why we end up debating the oxford comma, possessive nouns, and passive and active voice. Just because a set of rules been prescribed does not mean that that is the way that we are actually using the language (this is the essential argument behind descriptive versus prescriptive grammar).

In online communication, sometimes grammar has to be thrown out the window. Participating in my online course can sometimes be overwhelming by the sheer numbers involved. With over 30,000 people enrolled, posting from all over the world, it can take some time to sort through all the posts, especially when many posters are English Language Learners. But regardless of someone’s mother tongue and grammar, if their ideas are valid and intriguing, is that putting them at a disadvantage? I would say no. Others may disagree.

Sometimes a quick blog entry can be more effective than a long-winded one, grammatical mistakes and all.

What are the most effective ways to  connect with–and persuade–different audiences?

To me, the most effective ways to connect and persuade different audiences is to know your audience, write honestly, clearly, and with your own voice.

And then she taught!

A journey through the nooks and crannies of Secondary Education with a lady who sometimes misplaces her maps.


Created for EDCMOOC



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