As Chicago's teachers took to the streets, Americans were reminded of the importance of education in the national conversation. In collaboration with our StateImpact Florida team, NPR's midday-talk program Tell Me More is guiding an extensive - and inclusive - discussion to spotlight education in America.
To start, the show launched a Twitter Education Forum (#npredchat) to engage influencers, policymakers, journalists, activists, and most importantly educators, parents, and students in a continuing conversation about education reform.
On October 10, the conversation will culminate in a live broadcast from NPR Member Station WLRN in Miami. To get connected to the social media conversation happening now and preview what's to come, we sat down with Tell Me More, StateImpact and WLRN:
It seems that Americans have called for reforming our school system forever. What is Tell Me More's motivation for holding a Twitter Education Forum now?
Michel Martin: Time and time again, when we talk to listeners and when they talk to us, education comes up as one of their major concerns. In this election season, we wanted to find a way to really focus on an issue that we have all agreed is important. We've elected ourselves as leaders of that conversation! And, when you consider that mobile devices make it easier than ever to talk with each other and share ideas, this seemed like the right time and the right way to do this.
On October 10, Tell Me More Host Michel Martin will incorporate listeners' tweets about education into a live broadcast from the WLRN studio in Miami.
What was the genesis behind utilizing Twitter to start a conversation?
Teshima Walker: NPR is actively engaged across various platforms, online, and on mobile devices. We wanted to take a deeper look at education and explore ways of engaging not only with our radio audience, but with the digital public, as well.
Tell Me More is always searching for ways to push the frontiers of storytelling for communities of color. We learned from the NPR Audience Research team that African Americans and Latinos use social media more than other groups, despite having less access to computers and the Internet. We see Twitter as an opportunity to engage a diverse community on the topic of education.
How do you think engaging the audience through social media will enrich and expand the conversation on education?
Davar Ardalan: We anticipate that the topics generated through Twitter will inform some of the questions discussed during Tell Me More's live broadcast in Miami. We're hoping that policymakers, parents, teachers, reporters, and anyone else interested in participating will weigh in on everything from innovative teaching techniques, to what types of educational environments are helping students and teachers, to whether technology and social media are even effective tools in the classroom. By early October, we hope to have energized a healthy discussion that will continue before, during, and after the broadcast.
Many of the education influencers, who have already been tweeting using #npredchat, will be available throughout the day on October 10 to tweet, re-tweet, and engage online with audience members.
How does StateImpact, a reporting project of local stations and NPR, fit into the equation?
Lynette Clemetson: StateImpact is a digital-first, multi-platform reporting project among NPR and Member Stations examining how state issues and policy affect people's lives. In addition to a website dedicated to each StateImpact state, social media has become an essential way in which our reporters communicate with various audiences.
Our StateImpact Florida team focuses solely on education issues. On a daily basis, our two reporters in Florida – one based at WUSF in Tampa, the other at WLRN in Miami – explore issues surrounding education policy and reform. They are connected at a local level to many of the communities Tell Me More hopes will help inform this broader conversation. So, this collaboration with Tell Me More – engaging education policy stakeholders and the public on critical issues of reform – is an inspired partnership.
Aside from the fact that WLRN began airing Tell Me More this past July, why focus a broader discussion on education in Miami?
Dan Grech: Florida is a Petri dish for educational reform. Our StateImpact team has covered Florida's move away from traditional public schools to charter schools and vouchers for private education, the introduction of a merit pay system for teachers, and the transition away from our current high-stakes test to a new exam called the "Common Core."
Miami is also one of the most dynamic multicultural regions in the country and a bellwether for the demographic changes seen across America. The lively discussion and spirited debate on Tell Me More is a perfect fit for our audience.
What can listeners do now to start participating?
Share your thoughts and ideas with @TellMeMoreNPR on Twitter tagged with #npredchat. Bring yourself up to speed on the conversation by visiting the #npredchat aggregate page.