A few years ago whilst perusing Adrienne Rich texts on Amazon.com, I came across a pamphlet she wrote titled “The Meaning of Our Love for Women Is What We Have Constantly to Expand.” It was for the New York Rich PamphletLesbian Pride Rally dated June 26, 1977. I immediately purchased it, excited that at least one of these pamphlets still existed so I could read it–– and even more excited that it wouldn’t kill my bank account’s soul. When I received it in the mail about two weeks later, I marveled at the paper upon which it was written— yellowed with age, thick-stock cardish with bold print— an ironically simple design with not-so-simple text.

Bonus: It still had a faded, hand-written address on the front cover.

I couldn’t help thinking that this pamphlet should be in one of Buzzfeed’s myriad “35 Things You Will Never See Again in Your Life” articles that either make one feel nostalgic or old. Pamphlets like this are extinct now, replaced with calls-to-action via Facebook and Twitter that take less time and energy to create and disseminate information, less time and energy, it seems, to “rally the troops.”

The expediency with which activists have embraced technology is astounding, and now, one would be hard-pressed to not see posts about various issues on one’s Facebook page or Twitter account for “Save the Whales,” “Rally for Veteran’s Rights,” “Keep G-d in Schools,” “Planned Parenthood Rally at X time,” “Second Amendment Rally at the Capitol,” and “Sign this Petition to Get Rid of Student Loan Debt” (this is one I would happily sign–– mad props to Senator Warren). While the inundation of these petitions and invites may be annoying to many social media users, they are integral for advocacy groups to get messages out quickly to a wide audience. As an added reward, social media platforms also provide a free(ish) alternative to printing and mailing hundreds of postcards, fliers, and pamphlets for activists pressed for time and money to make things happen that will advance their cause. Social media has also been a way for like-minded folks to keep in touch, to share ideas, and to plan national rallies and campaigns that would be virtually impossible otherwise.

Last year when the Little Rock School District Board of Directors was ousted by the Arkansas State Board of Education (ASBE), many educators, myself included, felt it necessary to voice our opinions— both for and against— the takeover. Those of us who felt the ASBE’s decision was wrong also felt powerless to fight the same people who dictate educational policy and practices (along with the Arkansas House of Representatives and Arkansas LRSDSASenate). Many students who spoke out against the takeover planned a vigil for the District at the state capitol in downtown Little Rock in an attempt to show support for the ousted Board. I assumed that would be the only thing planned, but several of my students approached me about starting a student association so they could ensure every student had a chance to voice their opinions about his/her own education, and we worked with another advocacy group called “Our Community, Our Schools” in order OurCommunitymake this happen.

I had been a spectator at a few rallies here and there for education issues and LGBTQIA rights in the state, but I’d never been involved in helping a group organize, and I had definitely never worked with students organizing around a protest. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram became integral avenues for the students to get messages out to the 25,000+ students around the District about events and actions that needed to be taken in order to have their voices heard by the higher-ups.

I’ll be the first person to admit that quite a bit of my education policy reading comes from twitterverse and blogs, namely education historian Diane Ravitch (@DianeRavitch) and  education journalist and blogger “Edushyster” (@edushyster). All one has to do is click “Follow” on Twitter or “Like” on Facebook, and 💣💥🔥 ,instant updates fill the screen in real time. Most of these messages are links to blog posts with links to other articles and pages and blogs and when you finally look up, three hours have passed and you’re ready to take on the world. “Sharing” on the Facebook and “retweeting” on Twitter for advocacy issues are at an all-time high––and  so is trolling those people or pages opposing viewpoints who are working to circumvent these issues, as we’ve seen in many cases recently with American presidential campaigns, local political and education issues, and hashtag movements concerning rampant police brutality that have been reappropriated by various communities and circumvented by political opposition.

That said, what social media is really good at is giving a voice to youth desperate for change in a world that silences them by relegating their advocacy, assuming it is merely the  exuberance of youth that compels them, without taking a deeper, more objective look at the issues or movements. Recently, university students across the nation have come together in order to show solidarity with black Mizzou (University of Missouri) students who have been targeted on campus because of their race and the protest was in direct response to what the protesters felt was a lackluster response to such racism.Mizzou twitter

The football team, with full support of the Mizzou coaching staff, refused to play a game until racism on campus was addressed by police and administration, with one student even using taking part in a hunger strike to bring attention and understanding to the issue. Many of the Mizzou students, and even the head football coach, Gary Pinkel, took to Twitter and used hashtag activism to plan protests and give information to the community and world at large, and it worked.

Many of the protesters called for the resignation of Mizzou President Tim Wolfe and Chancellor R. Bowden Loftin, who both resigned under the pressure of the student movement (CNN). President Obama got in the mix, stating, “I want an activist student body just like I want an activist citizenry. I’d rather see them err on the side of activism than being passive” (Youtube via ABC News). President Obama does, however, remind us that we should seek to understand the views of those with whom we disagree in order to enact change, and he gives a history lesson and discusses argumentation without shutting the opposing side down. Along with standing up, listening is key.

And speaking of POTUS…


Hope. Change. Really awesome poster. Young folks canvassing and using MoveOn.org, the National Education Association, and “grassroots movements.” All of these were prevalent in 2008’s “hashtag candidacy,” as voters worked hard to get their candidate elected.

Hip, cool, and charismatic, Senator Barack Obama took advantage of his young voter base, and they responded in droves–– retweeting his message in videos, Hope posters, Rachel Maddow’s undying love and sheer giddiness that he could, in fact, be the next President of the United States–– creating what Integrated Brands aptly noted about Obama’s meteoric rise from junior Senator to Arsenio Hall- guest-saxophone playin’-badass Bill Clinton status.
Obama’s 2008 campaign will likely go down in history as the first wide-scale politically integrated branding campaign. From sending out voting reminders via Twitter to interacting with people on his official Facebook page, the soon-to-be world leader earned the digital hearts of the previously untapped social media-engaged millennial electorate. Not bad considering Twitter had just started picking up momentum in 2007 and the iPhone hadn’t even been released yet. (Integrated Brands)

Similarly, President Obama and Vice-President Biden have helped create buzz through their “bromance,” which has been documented widely on social media and news sites, creating positive press for various policies, such as healthcare.

Hashtag activism definitely works, and although it can create spaces in which people on the opposing side can voice their opinion, it will, hopefully, create meaningful dialogue for the betterment of the world.




Keep Calm and Emoji On


When I was a teenager many years ago, I considered myself a technological Hermione-in-Muggle-Form–– able to download the newest music to a cd faster than Lars Ulrich could say “Napster”— even to the point that my father begged me to forgo my dream of becoming a theatre director and become a corporatized version of blue red pill 3“Trinity” from The Matrix. I decided against careers as computer-goddess and theatre extraordinaire and instead focused on my love of the written word. Apparently, it’s difficult to keep up with technology when one falls in love with 19th century literature, and thus, my wizardry faded as quickly as Apple releases new versions of its iPhone.

Now that I’m a thirtysomething high school English teacher in Arkansas, I am, regrettably, utterly inept with everything technological, and thanks to the teenagers
who occupy my workspace, I’m reminded of it every day. I’ve become the teacher who merely word processes and creates Prezis (poorly, I may add) instead of the hip teacher who SnapChats homework and random “thoughts” to students (which is against the Code of Ethics for Arkansas Educators, by the way). I’m more Converse-wearing McGonagall than Hermione-from-C++ Land now, and I’m fine with that; however, my students are not. Heck, even President Obama has gotten into the act, thanking Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for emojis on behalf of the young people of America.

 From :- P  to 1st gen face emojito 😜

A few years ago, a student from my AP English Literature and Composition class sent me a text with a homework question, and after I replied, she responded a quick “👍” back to me. This was an “emoji,” not the rudimentary emoticons of my youth : – o, : – ), : – P . Although I first scoffed at my students’ obsessive use of emojis, deriding them as hi-tech hieroglyphics, I found myself addicted to the potential of these little cartoonish characters as a new form of communication––not to mention the ability to quickly convey emotion without typing a lengthy response–– but I also worried about emojis’ impact on linguistic expression, like the use of “LOL” or “OMG” instead of “That was utterly hilarious!” or the various ways “You will not believe what just happened to me” might be conveyed.

The emoticons I was so fond of so many years ago were created in 1982 by Scott Fahlman, who used a colon, hyphen, and closed parenthesis  to create a “smiley face”   🙂    in order to diffuse an uncomfortable bulletin-board war of words at Carnegie Mellon (Davison 122). Emoticons, then, became a rudimentary way to “represent the intent or emotional state of the person transmitting them,” a precursor to emoji, and later, memes. (Davison). Emoji, though, from the Japanese e (picture) and moji (letter character) prototypes were created in the late 1990’s Japan by Shigetaka Kurita when he worked for NTT docomo, the largest Japanese provider of mobile internet/cellular services where he was “selling pagers, and using hearts in the messages were very popular among pager users. Therefore, I started thinking that having pictures that can show expressions like hearts would be important for i-mode [internet platform] too. I passionately proposed to add emoji to i-mode” (Nakano). Interestingly, Kurita also  wanted to add pictograms (♿️, 🚯) and manpu, “unique techniques using symbolic representations,”  users would be familiar with in Japan in order to create a more user-friendly experience (Nakano).

The Youth, The Old Folks, and Emoji

It would take years before the United States would embrace emoji, and with the introduction of the Apple iPhone emoji keyboard around 2010, American teenagers went from 😴 to 😍, incorporating emojis into their everyday text messaging with friends. According to many of my students over the last few years, emojis make it easier to respond to texts without typing large swaths of words to explain their emotional states or that they are, for instance, tired of writing an essay (my favorite so far)(😫✍ 📄🌝🌓🌚😭⚰) or had a great time at a party (🙌🎂🎉🎤💃🏼🎁). While emojis are not language because there is no descriptive grammatical structure as of yet, they do enhance language by providing a picture of what the user wants to convey, much in the same way an adjective enhances meaning. Emojis also provide a faster, more succinct response and help readers understand–– especially when the user would like to convey sarcasm, humor, and irony–– which, for many, is extremely difficult to read in alphanumeric form, and particularly, in the slap-dashery  of text messaging. In an interview with Tech Insider, even Steven Pinker—all-around badass expert in the fields of cognitive science, psychology, and linguistics— thinks emojis are a communicative force which aids in culling meaning otherwise lost in the arrangement of words on the page. What the various smiley emojis(😀😃😊😜) do––in particular by mainly conveying irony or levity––is often crucially important in getting a message across, and it allows the reader and user to communicate more clearly, without as much fear of “OMG, I wonder if he/she took that last text message the wrong way” (Baer). Pinker is certainly not signalling the end of an alphanumeric system of communication and composition; rather, he is advocating for using emojis in order to clarify emotions or hard-to-read communication, such as irony and sarcasm, in non-professional and non-academic communication, and just as importantly, to keep one’s audience in mind when using emojis (Baer).

Emojis are even being introduced into mainstream education programs for English as a Second Language students in order to help them learn vocabulary. Kee-Man Chuah of University of Malaysia Sarawak recently researched the use of WhatsApp, and found that students using emoji along with other media files to explain various words learn them with more efficacy when coupled with other strategies. Kee-Man also uses an example from the app in which students are allowed to instant message with one another, and emojis played a vital role in their expression and explanation of words:

Chat for Word 2
Teacher: For today, let’s look at the word “contract”, what does it mean?
Student J: Agreement kah, sir?
Teacher: Ok, that’s good. What about “contract” as a verb?
Student C: Agreement right? Like when we buy something…
Student I: (Emoji) thats all I know too…a promise make

By allowing these students to use emojis to represent a word, WhatsApp creates yet another tool for ESL learners to acquire language capabilities (Kee-Man).

Emoji- The Destruction of Language?


I’ve recently asked a few friends about whether their children using
emojis, and the verdict, at least, in my nonacademic please-don’t-make-me-get-an-IRB “survey,” is unanimous: “🤘🏾” to kiddo emoji use. I should probably mention that these parents are “cool,” even texting one another emoji stories laEmoji Story of J's exmbasting exes  and recounting divorce (much like the one I received on the left from a friend when she found out I was writing this article) or laughing at the shenanigans of their spawn.
Conversely, not all adore the use of emoji, and this hatred has been well documented in various forms— from blogs to academic papers; much of this fist-shaking relies heavily upon the belief that, when children use emojis, they’re no longer “composing,” and thus, language, then, is doomed.
Not so, states linguist John McWhorter in his Ted Talk “Txting is Killing Language, OMG!”

He points to several examples from  history in which curmudgeon academics have stated youngsters of their generation have provided the 🔫💣🔪☠⚰ to language everywhere, and that they must conform to standards set forth by our dear, old ancestors because that’s the way it’s always been, and dagnabit, it’s the best way:

So we have a whole battery of new constructions that are developing, and yet it’s easy to think, well, something is still wrong. There’s a lack of structure of some sort. It’s not as sophisticated as the language of The Wall Street Journal. Well, the fact of the matter is, look at this person in 1956, and this is when texting doesn’t exist, “I Love Lucy” is still on the air.
“Many do not know the alphabet or multiplication table, cannot write grammatically — ”
We’ve heard that sort of thing before, not just in 1956. 1917, Connecticut schoolteacher. 1917. This is the time when we all assume that everything somehow in terms of writing was perfect because the people on “Downton Abbey” are articulate, or something like that. So, “From every college in the country goes up the cry, ‘Our freshmen can’t spell, can’t punctuate.'”
And so on. You can go even further back than this. It’s the President of Harvard. It’s 1871. There’s no electricity. People have three names. “Bad spelling, incorrectness as well as inelegance of expression in writing.” And he’s talking about people who are otherwise well prepared for college studies. (McWhorter)

McWhorter is right: we’ve predicted the loss of language and its beauty as many times as we’ve predicted the Second Coming, and yet, despite all of this, language lives on because it is diverse. As many multimodal composition scholars (think Kathleen Blake Yancey, Cheryl Ball [😍], and, ahem, Londie T. Martin) and linguists (McWhorter and Pinker) attempt to assuage our propensity toward screaming “The sky is falling!” when it comes to our (mis)understanding of language and composing, our kids, students, nieces, and nephews are engaged in changing the very definition of language and how we compose and effectively communicate with one another. The use of emojis by youngsters, then, should be lauded and not criticized, because they are bridging incredible communicative gaps in a global, technology-driven society. And while emoji may not be ready for academic writing (according to some, like Steven Pinker), I would not count it out just yet, because just as we have changed language, composition, and communication practices of previous generations, so too, then, should our “ways” be changed by the youth.

I’d call that ❤️ in the most awesome way imaginable.

Standard One of the Code of Ethics for Arkansas Educators or “Should I Really Post that Picture?”




In September 2008, the Arkansas State Board of Education adopted the Code of Ethics for Arkansas Educators, and in doing so, facilitated a criteria by which Arkansas educators must conduct themselves inside and outside the classroom. While various teachers’ codes of ethics have been around for decades, Arkansas’s relatively recent adoption creates more questions than it answers—especially in terms of how teachers use social media.

The Code of Ethics is integral to safeguarding the children of our state because, well, let’s be honest— there are some creepy people out there. One need only utter the word “educator” in mixed company and jokes concerning Mary Kay LaTourneau eke into the discussion. Unfortunately, Arkansas has played host to several cases of inappropriate and/or sexually predatory teacher/student relationships in the last decade, and it is largely because of this the Arkansas State Board of Education adopted the Code with support from educators around the state.  

Essentially, the Code of Ethics for Arkansas Educators allows the Arkansas State Board of Education to penalize anyone who holds a teaching license in the state if found “guilty” of a violation of the Code including, but not limited to, a monetary fine; suspension of one’s teaching license; or permanent revocation of an Arkansas teaching license. Even though the Code is a relatively recent adoption, it does not explicitly take into account the explosion of technology and social media associated with educator social media use. Luckily, the Arkansas Department of Education has attempted to remedy this by providing a plethora of professional development opportunities specifically concerning the Code and has created various types of presentations—from .pdf to PowerPoint to video— with information about everything that will help an Arkansas educator understand the importance of his/her professional behavior and the Code of Ethics for Arkansas Educators. The Arkansas Department of Education (ADE) has worked diligently to produce up-to-date information for educators across the state in the hopes that teachers will take advantage of the material before major ethical violations are committed. The Resources tab on the ADE website is the most important page in exploring the Code and garnering answers to frequently asked questions.

ADE Resources Page

As a high school teacher, I’ve often wondered if my personal social media profiles warranted a violation of the Code. I erroneously believed that I could cite the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in order to continue posting whatever I wanted on social media such as Facebook and Twitter, but according to the National Education Association, the United States Supreme Court case Pickering versus Board of Education, “held that it’s not a First Amendment violation to dismiss probationary teachers for what they say or write, if their speech involves merely personal things (i.e. doesn’t address broader social/political issues of the day), or if the speech might disturb the workplace” (Simpson). Along the same lines, Frederick Lane, an attorney and author of Cybertraps for Educators and Cybertraps for the Young, frames this dilemma with a rhetorical question he poses to the audience of an ADE professional development workshop, “Do teachers have the right to a digital life?”, explaining that teachers are role models for students, whether we like it or not, and we must remain cognizant of this at all times (“Professional Licensure Standards Board (PLSB): Social Media Guidelines”). Lane does not discuss specific standards from the Code of Ethics for Arkansas Educators, but he does give a general explanation of what has happened in cases of teacher ethics violations across the country to highlight the importance of recognizing the tenuous position an educator is in when writing or posting on personal and professional social media accounts.

The Standard (Thought we’d never get there, eh?)

The standard which is the most general  within the Code, Standard One, is also the standard violated by educators repeatedly, “two-three times more than any other violation reported” ( “Code of Ethics For Arkansas Educators Training Video”):

“Standard One: An educator maintains a professional relationship with each student, both in and outside the classroom” (Code of Ethics for Arkansas Educators).

According to the ADE training video on the Code, Standard One was “intentionally written very broadly to ensure all possible educator/student professional relationship concerns could be included”. Given its sweeping generality, this is the standard under which the ADE files social media violations. Furthermore, ADE is explicit in  “Recommendations and Guidelines Regarding the Educational Applications of Social-Networking Technology Issued by the Arkansas Professional Licensure Standards Board”—a document written specifically for social media in education— that, if and when an educational social media account is approved by district administration, personal and professional/educational social media accounts maintained by an educator should be kept separate at all times:

E-mail and/or social media tools and accounts should be kept separate.

    • Professional accounts should be created and maintained separately for student and/or parent interaction and communications. An authorized administrator or his or her designee should regularly monitor professional accounts and have full rights to modify the accounts.
    • Personal accounts should be for personal use only. School personnel should not add students and/or parents as “friends” or “associates” to personal accounts.

Keeping your personal account and an account you create for your 9th grade English class in which you and your students must retell The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet through Facebook status updates is integral to maintaining a professional distance, especially given the not-so-stellar judgment we’ve all been guilty of (myself included) when posting uncouth status updates, pictures, and memes.

If a teacher wants to keep a social media account and wants to post hilarious, albeit inappropriate, jokes, memes, or pictures, the privacy settings of one’s account must be set to “Do Not Let Anyone See This Who Can Get Me Fired” mode.

Hint: This mode doesn’t exist, and if someone wants to see an educator’s social media page badly enough, chances are, they’ll be able to get around those settings somehow. It is good, though, to make sure that any and all posts to personal social media pages have the highest privacy setting available. At the very least, if you feel it necessary to post something as heinous as “Mr. — is a horrible d#*$ politician and deserves to be flogged repeatedly!” do not add parents or students, no matter how close you are with them, as “followers,” “friends,” or “associates” to your social media accounts.  You may also want to keep this in mind when you’re trying to decide whether or not to friend the math teacher down the hall you just met last month, too.

You have been warned.

Works Cited

Arkansas Professional Licensure Standards Board, Arkansas Education. Association Arkansas Association of Educational Administrators, Arkansas Association of Supervisors, and Curriculum Development. “Recommendations and Guidelines Regarding the Educational Applications of Social-Networking Technology Issued by the Arkansas Professional Licensure Standards Board”. Resources. Arkansas Department of Education. 27 February 2015. Web. 6 October 2015.

“Code of Ethics For Arkansas Educators Training Video.” Code of Ethics for Arkansas Educators. Arkansas Department of Education, 5 August 2015. Web. 9 October 2015.

Code of Ethics for Arkansas Educators. Code of Ethics. Arkansas Department of Education. 1 September 2008. Web. 6 October 2015.

“Professional Licensure Standards Board (PLSB): Social Media Guidelines.” AETN AR IDEAS Courses. Arkansas Department of Education. 8 July 2014. Web. 19 October 2015.

Simpson, Mike. “Social Networking Nightmares.” Tomorrow’s Teachers. National Education Association. 2010. Web. 12 October 2015.