Thursday, February 17, 2011

From Egypt To The Classroom. When Is Our Revolution?

by Steven W. Anderson

It has been an interesting past few weeks around the world. First the govenerment in Tunisia was brought down. Then a similar situation in Egypt. And now people are taking to the streets in Bahrain, Iran and other places. For whatever the reason the people in these countries were upset with their government and protest to the point where they brought down governments, some that had been in place for 30+ years.

Now, I am not a political expert. I don't know each situation and why the people where unhappy. I have some knowledge but I don't want to speculate. But I do know that there is one common thread in each of these situations that is worth taking a look at.

Social Media

On Sunday 60 Minutes profiled the man credited with starting the revolution in Egypt. Wael Ghorim works for Google and started a Facebook page for Egyptians to post their experiences with police. And it is from that Facebook page and from Twitter posts organize protests that topiled a government. It was a great interview and you can watch it below.

The events in Tunisia, Iran, Bahrain, and other places and trace their beginnings to the use of social media by the residents in those countries. Facebook, Twitter and other social networking sites allowed residents to organize in non-traditional ways to get their message out. Many of the governments don't know how to handle these new voices, so they knee-jerk react, send out the military to quiet the crowds. But they just get louder and louder and larger and larger. And in the case of Egypt and Iran, they attempted to keep control by shutting down Internet traffic for several days.

Any of this sound familiar?

Leadership is afraid of a new medium and how powerful it is. So they put up blocks, downplay it's effectiveness, and bury their heads in the proverbial sand.

When is our revolution in education when it comes to Social Media and the use of these tools in the classroom? Think about how powerful it could be if students in a high school social studies class in Nebraska could look at the Facebook page started by Wael. But, they can't because the district feels Facebook is a time suck, provides no educational value and they block it.

Or what about being able to look at the Tweets organizing the protests and have a discussion about why the people in these places feel the way they do and how their situations compare to those locally and nationally.

Those of us who know the power of Social Media and the value it can provide to learning are, sometimes, seen in the same way as many of the organizers of these revolutions. We are disruptive. We want to destroy the current system. Really? We just want change. We understand how these tools can be used to enhance, change and ultimately make learning better for students.

Maybe it is wrong of me to compare these events in these countries where many of the citizens have been mistreated for many, many years. But again, isn't the same true for our kids? Sitting in rows, drill and kill, teaching in isolation. Maybe that is mistreatment....

What do you think? When is our education revolution? Are their parallels? Or are the situations different? Leave some comments below.


  1. The revolution has begun in Wisconsin. Teachers are fighting back at the cutbacks and political situation right now. See this article for details on what is happening right now. Facebook and Twitter have been instrumental in getting the word out to educators to fight for our rights. The teachers union has organized polls and communications on Facebook which have allowed not just teachers but all citizen of WI to weigh in. This is an instance where the social media has helped mobilize a movement against the governor and for teacher rights. One of my favorite signs in Madison, WI rally was one that said: Welcome to Cairo!

  2. Our revolution is now. There are obvious parallels! In the past few weeks, a large number of slumbering teachers have been inspired to fight. My fifth graders have clearly stated the similarities between Egypt, Tunisia, the Civil Rights Movement and the fight again the teachers' union. Please check out to see how elementary students make the connections between protests and fights for power at home and abroad.

    We had FB unblocked to study the movement! BTW, thank you for your 60 Minutes clip-- we watched it as a class.

  3. For me, the clear connection is that the new media provide "voice"--and the institutions which are used to controlling the narratives through which they have power are finding that when the users have voice, they also want to participate in the building of the narratives. I think this is an historical moment of huge importance. I also think that institutions will go to great lengths to protect their power and roles--not necessarily malevolently, but also just because the people in those institutions have a vested interest in protecting their own roles and see the world through the narratives that they have constructed.


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