Tuesday, October 28, 2014

So... We Started a Twitter Chat (and don't always worry about the "why" in life)

About a year ago, I was enjoying the last fleeting moments of a three-month stretch of free premium movies from a cable provider, fully intending to cancel the perk once it became a fee-based nuisance. While flipping through the freemium movie channels for the last time, I caught a charming, if not a bit cheesy, family film called We Bought a Zoo. The story was lighthearted and enjoyable overall - Matt Damon attempts to win father of the century by moving his kids into a house that comes with a zoo. The only catch is that he must run the zoo in addition to raising his teenage son and little girl - no small task. The film is worth a rental at best, but one single line from this film stuck with me, and has really guided a lot of my decision-making ever since.

Before I get to the line that changed my perspective on life, I think it is best to get back to the title of this post (trust me, this is all going to tie together nicely at some point). Twitter and I have always had a complicated relationship, which is humorous considering such a phrase comes from their bitter rival, Facebook. Nonetheless, I have been the classic “uses Twitter only at conferences” kind of educator for years, until just recently.

Around a year ago, I started looking around and noticing a few colleagues who were starting to show me a different side of Twitter. The side I knew was one of chaos: an endless stream of links, hashtag vomit, and incomprehensible abbreviations that did not do me much good. However, I discovered the simple elegance and connectivity of a Twitter chat, typically an hour-long, moderated discussion focusing in on a particular topic. These types of professional development opportunities spoke to me in a way the “feed” never did - other people joining together to use the medium as a forum, feedback source, and focus group. I dipped my toe in the water, and suddenly I went from casual Twitter lurker to being a “regular” in a few different chats.

Only after that initial exposure did I realize the almost limitless potential of social networking within tools such as Twitter and others. Before I knew it, I had the privilege of connecting with authors, app developers, and companies, helping break down the barriers of fame and fortune to get to the people behind the brand, the book, or the legend. That’s the beauty of Twitter - groups and the famous few can connect to individuals on a personal level, rather than aiming for the crowd.

Fast forward to a few months ago. My team of Technology Integrators had just welcomed Ben Brazeau (or @braz74 for the Twitter-goers) as the newest member of our group. He had, through his own desire to connect others, started the weekly #sstlap chat. After talking with Ben about the values and virtues of Twitter, our goal became clear: start an educational chat for our district - and beyond! Ben will try his best to claim the idea was mine, but I would not have even dreamt of such a concept if not for his passionate endorsement of Twitter as a medium.

A quick snapshot of #gbedchat in action. Notice our guest cameos from Cybraryman and Todd Whitaker!

At one point in the film, a headstrong animal trainer played by Scarlett Johansson corners Matt Damon’s lovable father-turned-zoo-owner and asks, “Why did you even buy this place?”

Damon shoots her a winning smile with a little mystery behind it and simply says, “Why not?”

Although it may be a cheesy, Hollywood-esque moment, I still cannot help but admire that quote and that attitude. Perhaps we all need to say, “Why not?” a bit more. Whenever I hear people ask why we started a Twitter chat, I hear Matt Damon saying, “Why not?” When people ask me why I post silly videos of myself playing guitar while teaching English concepts, Matt Damon is right there asking, “Why not?” Sometimes we get so wrapped up in WHY we should do something, that we forgot that there are no good reasons NOT to do it!

So we started a Twitter chat. I only recently learned that We Bought a Zoo is based on a true story, so I must point out that starting a Twitter chat can only be slightly less crazy than that proposition. If you’re interested in joining some Green Bay educators and talk about all things education every other Tuesday at 8:00 CST, come on over to the #gbedchat hashtag. And what do you know? We have a chat TONIGHT at 8:00 CST on Educator Effectiveness - sounds like a good time to say to yourself, “Why not?”


Not many movies can get me misty-eyed (darn you, Up!), but We Bought a Zoo came extremely close. At the VERY end of the movie, father-of-the-year candidate Matt Damon retells a story to his kids about the first time he met their late mother, who passed a few years ago. As he sits in the diner and relives the moment, he tells them what he said to her in the restaurant, a scene which gave me chills (and MAYBE one single tear):

Matt Damon: “Why would an amazing woman like you even talk to someone like me?”

If you cannot guess the next two words from his late wife, you have not read this post very closely. All at once, everyone:

Late Wife: “Why not?”

Cue curtain. *blows nose and dabs cheek*

Works Cited:

"We Bought a Zoo". Retrieved 27 October, 2014 from http://www.comicmix.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/We-Bought-A-Zoo-DVD-300x418.jpg.


  1. Very nice, Jon! I cannot be there tonight for the chat but I will catch you another night.

  2. That Matt Damon Quote....
    I have used that so many times....