Plotting Twitter users’ locations in R (part 1: teachers, Twitter, and terrorism)

Written by: Spencer Greenhalgh

Primary Source:  Spencer Greenhalgh

Yesterday, I posted for the first time in French, which was kind of exciting for me but less exciting for those of you who don’t read French. The good news is that yesterday’s post was, in effect, a prelude to a series of posts I’ll be doing this week (in English) about a French Twitter hashtag. To keep things short, I’ll spend today’s post introducing the hashtag and then tell you what I’ve done with it over the next few days.

Like many Francophones and Francophiles, I was shocked and hurt by the 13 November terrorist attacks in Paris. I spent a lot of time following updates on Twitter to get a sense of what was going on and was fascinated to discover the hashtag #educattentats. The term is a pun on éducation and attentats, the French word for terrorist attack.

It’s hard to get excited about anything associated with such a tragic event, but it is nonetheless amazing to see how quickly and how powerfully Francophone teachers used this hashtag to rally together as an educational community and decide how they were going to respond to the tragedy.

Teachers and organizations began using the hashtag to…

…share resources and advice for how to talk to their students the next school day


…reflect on the role of their profession in combating extremism



…redirect attention to helpful tweets that didn’t initially use the hashtag


…carry out in-class activities



… and even draw attention to the importance of digital and media literacies


Of course, as I mentioned last week, just as a hashtag affords a community a way to quickly and easily gather around a topic, it also affords other people with other agendas a quick and easy way to impose their own voice. I’ve—thankfully—only seen one example of this, which is distasteful enough that I’d rather not reproduce it here or link to it.

These tweets so impressed me that I immediately began collecting these tweets with a TAGS archiver. Since then, I’ve been able to explore a couple of interesting things with them, and over the next few days, I hope to share some of the lessons I’ve learned.

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Hi there! My name is Spencer Greenhalgh, and I am a student in the Educational Psychology and Educational Technology doctoral program at Michigan State University. I came to Michigan State University with a strong belief in the importance of an education grounded in the humanities. As an undergraduate, I studied French and political science and worked as a teaching assistant in both fields. After graduation, I taught French, debate, and keyboarding in a Utah private school before coming to MSU, where I plan to study how technology can be used to help students connect the humanities with their lives. I have a particular interest in the use of games and simulations to promote ethical reasoning and explore moral dilemmas, but am eager to study any technology that can help students see the relevance of studying language, culture, history, and government.