Wednesday, June 09, 2010

The false sense of connection in Metro Nashville Public Schools' social media & Twitter

I don't waste too much time analyzing why people follow me and then unfollow me on Twitter. I have my own reasons for following and I respect that others have their reasons for following me (or not).

But just this once I'm going to bust the chops of the Metro Nashville Public School PR flacks who maintain the district's regular blog and their micro-blog via Twitter.

MNPS started following my Twitter stream in early May and they even sent me direct tweets. I was impressed with the breadth of the coverage of many different meetings. I even defended them on Twitter when it was suggested that this single agency approach to blogging was limited.

It seemed like a good match: a committed public school parent, PTO member, and engaged family guy following the local public school blog effort. And things were fine between @MetroSchools and @micchiato as long as I re-tweeted them and complimented them. But shortly after I started criticizing MNPS for being insular and suggesting that privatization through charter schools was not a wise course of action for public schools, they unfollowed me.

I don't take their choice as a personal affront. For me it is confirmation of my perception that the local public school system is thin-skinned, insular, and walled off from the regular families it is supposed to serve by its own bureaucratic and marketing agendas. Hence, it doggedly follows local media, celebrities, influential politicos, the latest hip non-profits, non-government organizations who generally don't rock the boat, and a slew of sexy people without kids in public schools.

Meanwhile, I do not doubt that it imagines, spins, and markets its social media as tools that public school families can themselves follow for information. However, since the writers of @MetroSchools are not following the tweets of more public school families, theirs is a fake exercise in connection. MNPS on Twitter is just another tool for keeping their actual clients, public school kids and parents, distant from two-way lines of communication that give people a sense of participation in and ownership of public education.

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