Pan Am Games, Tim Hortons, The Burger’s Priest … and My Twitter PLN


I blogged about a Twitter experiment last time and that experience has got me thinking about social media relationships.  Since most of my tweets have focused on education, I wondered how my PLN could extend to a non-school context. Subsequently for the next couple of days I decided to tweet about my adventures in Toronto.

Even though my parents reside in Toronto,  I’ve only lived in the city for two years, and that was two decades ago.  Nevertheless I have fond memories of the Blue Jays winning World Series during both years.   (I’ve been told to move back to Toronto for this reason alone).   A good pal from my undergrad days in Waterloo, Magneto (obviously a pseudonym) felt that I could not claim Toronto home until I’ve been properly educated about the city.  Hence he made it a mission to be my Toronto tour guide each time I visited my parents.  When I shared my Twitter Toronto idea, he was excited by this challenge.  So we made our city trip a game–tweeting out from different Toronto locations throughout the day.

I wondered whether me (not the educator Marlon) mattered to my PLN?   How would my PLN react to me not tweeting about the latest app, edtech idea, or the Common Core?  Can relationships be built beyond our professional practice?

Mayor John Tory and me

Luckily I had an interesting angle to tweet about during that particular week in Toronto.   The city happened to be hosting a world class sporting event–the Pan Am Games.  (Canada seems to be on top with gold medals. I would love to attribute their good fortune to my presence in the city.)  Magneto informed me that the torch runners were passing through Scarborough’s Chinese Cultural Centre, which happened to be near my parents’ condo.  Given the event was in my neighborhood and the function was free, I couldn’t turn it down.  I certainly wasn’t expecting much.  So imagine my surprise, when the mayor of Toronto, John Tory (@johntory) appeared at the event to officiate the torch relay.  The torch bearer running into the cultural centre excited the crowd.  John Tory gave a speech regarding his support to the Chinese community.  It was a great day.

Pam Am Torch Runner and me
Pam Am Torch Runner and me

So now I had material to tweet.  I used the official Pan Am Games hashtag (#panamgames) and added a Toronto hashtag (#toronto2015).  I got more responses from the torch bearer than the mayor.  Maybe me holding the torch made a difference.  Interestingly, I got over 100 Twitter impressions within an hour.  This number was more than the strategic tweeting I tried in my previous blog and at #ISTE2015.  Hmmm…. a testimony to Toronto’s Pan Am Fever?

The next day Magneto called me up to say I need to do downtown Toronto.  He hypothesized that someone in my PLN would have a Toronto connection.  Furnished with my iPhone 5, we planned strategic landmarks in the downtown area to tweet.  I was hopeful that we could spark more Twitter impressions than the Pan Am Torch bearer.

At Old City Hall
At Old City Hall

Our first stop was City Hall.  Magneto seem to think that politicians generated Twitter interest. We took pictures of old city hall and contrasted that with the new city hall.  It was encouraging to see some favorites and replies.

Pan Am Games mania was obvious in the downtown area– especially at Nathan Phillips Square, where preparations were being made for the opening ceremony.  I took a few snaps of Patchi–the official Pan Am mascot.  Patchi’s tweet generated a lot of response.  I even had CIBC, the Pan Am Games’ official sponsor favoriting this tweet.

Patchi, Pan Am Mascot at a bus stop by Nathan Phillip Square.
Patchi, Pan Am Mascot at a bus stop by Nathan Phillip Square.

About this point in time, we really started connecting with one of my PLN members, Christina Luce (@ChristinaMLuce).  She encouraged and inspired us to continue with our Twitter journey. Magneto claimed that “no matter where they are in the world, a true Torontonian would always be homesick when they see pictures of Toronto”.   True to his word, Christina was indeed from Toronto residing in the US.  She became a virtual third member to our excursion.

We took pictures of downtown Toronto, back view of Eaton Centre, the Sick Kids Hospital from afar,  Chinatown, the trendy Japanese area,  Spadina House, Casa Loma, TTC subway station, and Kensington Market.  We tried to tweet this out whenever we reached a free wifi spot.  When we stopped for coffee at Tim Horton’s, we reminded@ChristinaMLuce our “Canadian heritage”.

Tim Horton's--Canadian enough, eh?
Tim Hortons–Canadian enough, eh?

For dinner we recommended to @ChristinaMLuce The Burger’s Priest, supposedly one of the best burger joints in town.  Magneto explained that the franchise’s owner originally enrolled in seminary school but changed careers for the food industry.  To appease his mother, he kept the “priest” name in his restaurant chains.  I included this story in my tweet and got a great response from food lovers!

The Burger’s Priest grinds premium beef multiple times a day in order to make their burger patties.
Casa Loma
Casa Loma

We ended the day by catching a streetcar to Harbourfront Centre.  Magneto suggested I tweet out a praise to the local politician responsible for the new streetcars.  Since I lacked Toronto political knowledge, I declined, just in case someone were to ask me more.

The habour was beautiful at sunset, and I shot a quick video from the dock.  I’m not sure how Toronto decides where to put free public wifi spots.  Without Internet access at the Harbourfront I was unable to tweet out this spectacular view.

My day ended with interesting stories to tell, good food, and company. I lost track of myTwitter data and perhaps I was not really as interested in the numbers.   For you see, my most important insight was connecting with @ChristinaMLuce.  If it wasn’t for Twitter, I would not have gained a deeper understanding about this fellow virtual colleague.  Rather than “talk shop”, my Toronto sharing has helped us relate in new ways.  Therefore, I need to remind myself that meaningful relationships grow when we share authentically–our work, our friends, our lives.

The next day I connected with @ChristinaMLuce and got to know her as a real great educator!  Through Google Hangouts or Skype I anticipate we can have more meaning conversations in the future.  I’m looking forward to projects by our respective schools.  Indeed Twitter showed me that we can all find someone to identify with in this digital age.

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