Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Twittering Thoughts

I’ve been Twittering for a couple of months now. It's been a somewhat interesting experience. I think largely why the experience has not been as positive is because of the reasons behind why people use it. Is it an amazing tool? Absolutely, if you use it correctly. As you're reading this, I'm sure you want me to clarify what I mean. I recently viewed a video online with Liz Pullen, a sociologist, who has been researching Twitter to determine whether people are using it as a micro-blogging or information platform, or treating it like a social network. The creators of Twitter have recently spoken out that Twitter is an information platform and not a social network. Here's the video. It's worth watching.

The Sociology of Twitter, Video Interview with Liz Pullen from ReadWriteWeb on Vimeo.

I think this interview addresses the question that if clarified by the users can correct some of the challenges I have run into. First, I find people write the most bizaar things about themselves. One Twitter reads like this: 1) Just got up! 2) Going to shower now. 3) Ate breakfast, Not much to eat, Need to go shopping... and so on. Personally, I'm not interested in that much boring information, but these folks are treating it like Facebook, and are essentially updating their status every 15 minutes so their friends know their every move. Sometimes the information is way too personal as well. Twitter has recently turned off some search features because a person could search out information about a specific topic, you could find a list of entries from various users, and some of it not very carefully posted.

The second challenge I have is people saying they are following me that are, how should I say this tactfully, just looking to advertise their love interests. Basically, it's a spam feature. Some sites are generating inquiries and sending out requests to follow so that people will go to there porn sites or whatever. That being said, it creates great concern for having students, especially younger students sign up to use this service and have them being spammed by tasteless spammers.

However, before we throw out the tool completely, there may be ways to use it among peers for professional development purposes and to support pedagogy. I have had to place boundaries on what and why I use Twitter, or who I follow to get their messages. I do not use it provide useless personal information to professional colleagues and friends. I only use Twitter to post something I have learned about Web 2.0 tools I am using, or wanting to learn about, and how I would use these ideas in a classroom situation. Essentially, I developed a purpose for using it. I think Twitter can very useful in sharing ideas between teachers about particular topics. You get to post a question, and have your peers make comments that could be insightful to your question. For example, I was having trouble with understanding how to change a page in wikispace. I posted the question, and had a few responses from colleagues suggesting solutions within hours.

The other day, I announced that I finally figured out how to add Statcounter and Clustrmaps to my blog site. Now if any of my friends want to know how to do it, they can just contact me, and I can lead them through the process. In the end, they don't have to go searching all over the Internet to find solutions like I did, which takes a lot of time.

I was also interested in a recent article with the Wichita Eagle at College professors find Twitter a useful educational tool, that highlighted the uses for Twitter in a higher education setting, which I think has it's uses. Some students enter lecture highlights on the Twitter site with a laptop or use their Twitter cellphone feature for note-taking purposes. One student commented that by doing this, it helps him remember the lecture better, and besides, he can just print off the page later at home. Student can twitter discussions about topics among others doing group work to share ideas. Teachers can Twitter due dates and expectations for assignments. These ideas may work better for older students. It's pretty tough to think about how to use Twitter in grade two with great effectiveness.

Two other great sites that promote Twitter in teaching are: 25 ways to teach with Twitter and 100 Tips, Apps, and Resources for Teachers using Twitter.

Overall, Twitter has potential to be used by teachers and between teachers, and possibly older students, but everyone needs to remember it's a information platform, not a social network.

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