Two weeks ago, former school administrator Teela Watson responded to a tweet from Anderson Cooper asking his followers how they used his tweets and the information from his show in their daily lives.
“I responded that I pass along to educators, students and my own child pertinent information from his show and tweets,” Watson said. “I never thought about it again. I was just giving feedback. I didn’t realize it was a contest.”
Last Tuesday, while at Chili’s for dinner, Watson received a phone call from a New York number. Not knowing anyone in New York, she ignored the call.
She then received an email and text message that read, “I’m trying to get in touch with Teela Watson. Please call me.”
“I was processing it all, when I got another phone call,” Watson said. “So I stepped outside and took the call … It was Anderson Cooper’s producer.”
For 20 minutes, the two visited about Watson’s tweet and the role of social media in Watson’s career as an education technology consultant at Education Service Center Region XI.
At the end of the conversation the producer said, “We definitely want to put you on the show. Can you fly to New York Friday?”
Before she could check with her bosses, the production company called back and said the show was Thursday and she would need to fly out the following day.
Once given the green light, the sponsor of the contest, EyeFi, booked the trip for two – Watson took her neighbor, Jackie Brown.
The two were off at 10 Wednesday morning. They arrived to the studio at 7 a.m. Thursday for a taping of “Anderson Live,” which aired at 2 that afternoon. The episode’s topics included a transgender and overprotection of kids.
But Watson was not able to share her view on how social media and news broadcasts affect education because they “ran out of time.”
She was prepared to talk about how the immediacy of social media has changed the way educators address timely events and how educators teach students to check the validity of the information they receive.
“I was an assistant principal when 9/11 occurred,” Watson said. “Back then, students weren’t immersed in the amount of technology they are now. So when we heard about the events, we checked news sources, drafted an email advising teachers how to tell their students and sent it. Then we announced over the intercom for teachers to check their email.
“We had that cushion of time, but that has changed,” she continued. “Now it’s about teaching the kids how to analyze the information coming to them from all these mediums, how to check its validity… We’ve had to shift our focus from how to ‘introduce’ social media and news to students to how to ‘verify’ what’s presented.”
Watson was recognized as Cooper’s 3 millionth follower, and she spoke about her excitement for being there. Afterward, they got to go backstage.
“Anderson Cooper apparently has a thing for Slurpees, so there’s a machine right back stage,” Watson said. “His mother is Gloria Vanderbilt. Her artwork is all along the studio walls. I thought that was neat.”
Watson and Brown were out of the studio by 10:45 that morning and had until Sunday to explore the city. They saw a play, took a bus tour around the borough, visited Harlem and SoHo, ate “only at restaurants native to New York” and celebrated Fashion Week by “touching a $4,000 bag in Louis Vuitton and asking where the sterling silver was in Tiffany’s.”
“We also learned the Apple Store has surpassed the Statue of Liberty as the most visited attraction in NYC at 3,000 people per hour,” Watson said. “We had a blast. When you do a trip on such short notice, you can’t overthink or overplan. You just enjoy it.”