Most people think Twitter began in 2006, but a form of it actually existed in my grade 7 classroom long before that. I didn’t call it Twitter, I called it “Notion Notes.”
When I first came to Abbotsford, I taught grade 7. Besides having fun learning all that science and English, we also did fun things for their own sake. The kids loved it and so did I.
In its simplest form, a Notion Note is when students each write something on a little piece of paper, so small it couldn’t hold more than 144 characters.
Then I would read them out loud one by one.
The idea was that the students would play with words and ideas and there’d be some benefit from instant “publication.” Very quickly, a whole bunch of rituals grew around this simple activity:
- The paper must be newsprint, symbolizing the ephemeral nature of our notions.
- When a Notion Note is completed it must be folded once and held up between the middle and fore fingers until it is collected.
- They are read from a seated position, with teacher’s feet on the front row desk.
- After each Notion is read, it is torn four times and sprinkled from aloft into the large garbage can, again symbolizing that life for a notion is fleeting.
- Once a Notion Note is turned in, it belongs to the community rather than the author—one can’t publicly declare, “That one’s mine.”
- If a Notion catches my fancy through originality, profundity, sincerity or wit, it is deemed a “Classic” and placed ceremoniously into my breast pocket. This is obviously correlative to the “favouriting” of Tweets.
- At the end of the year, I would type up and post all of the classic Notion Notes, and celebrate them. This is obviously pretty much the same thing as “re-tweeting.”
Making the list
Students really got into this. It became the goal to either get a laugh from their classmates or to get their Notion Note into the pocket and make the classic list. They began to have a Notion Note page in their binder where they’d write down possible submissions. If they came across a quote while reading, they’d write it down. A funny idea or humorous question they had in response to something in Social Studies got written down too. Students also used Notion Notes as a way of disseminating famous quotes.
Notion Notes would sometimes talk directly to an individual, or interact with a Notion Note from the previous week. Sometimes they’d begin to develop themes over several weeks. These are like the reply option in Twitter.
Classics from 1993:
I think zits are those little bugs that crawl in your underwear at night.
This pen doesn’t work.
If pencils had erasers on both ends, we’d get better grades.
Count to 5…You are now 5 seconds older.
What’s the difference between a duck? Both of its legs are the same.
Author Unknown must be very talented.
Nobody notices what I do, until I don’t do it.
As the fish swims through the sea, /The bird swoops down and goes tweet.
There it was. The first tweet, staring me right in the face.
Too bad I was too short sighted to convert Notion Notes into an app. The problem was, no one knew about apps in 1990, and I missed my chance.