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140 characters of web2.0

August 6, 2009

This blog is going to be created in 140 or less character tweets.

Twitter is a micro-blogging tool that allows the user to update their status in 140 character posts.

Twitter is currently a highly popular web2.0 tool that is becoming more and more popular amongst internet users including celebrities.

I have recently joined the twitterverse by creating a twitter account under the name dancoles.  To date I am currently following 57 tweeple. [twoosh]

I decided to follow individuals that had similar interests to me.  This included adding some sports media and teachers and edtech people.

My initial thoughts were that twitter was a bit dumb.  I would use twitter.com and check it a couple of times a day.   Why was this dumb?

Only checking it a couple of times a day meant that there were tons of tweets updated and I had trouble going through them all.

I have since added TweetDeck and now I get a notification when there is a new update.  Now I can see all of the tweets.

This means of course that I need to be very selective in who I add to follow, I want quality tweets, not random ones that will take my attn. [twoosh]

Ok – typing sentences in 140 characters is tough and probably annoying to read.  The process was quite interesting though.  I needed to be very succinct in what I was typing and could not ramble.  I could add another tweet, but not go on and on and on in one tweet.

According to Wikipedia Twitter was originally released in July 2006 for public consumption.  The initial idea of Twitter was as a status update using 140 characters, the number of characters you are allowed to use in a SMS text message.

I have to be honest, my first thoughts when I heard about Twitter were, “How silly is this?” and I certainly thought that Twitter had no place in an educational setting.  But, as I did more research into it, I discovered that micro-blogging could have a role in a school setting.

Laura Walker, a teacher and director of e-learning from the UK suggests nine different ways teacher should be using Twitter.  I will list them here, but please see Laura’s blog for more details:

  1. Together, we are better – …”twitter is like a virtual staffroom…”
  2. Global or local, you choose – great way to network with teachers from other parts of the world.
  3. Self-awareness and reflective practice – “Teachers on Twitter share these reflections and both challenge and support each other.”
  4. Ideas workshop and sounding board – “Twitter is a great medium for sharing ideas and getting instant feedback.”
  5. Newsroom and innovation showcase – “Twitter helps…stay up to date on news and current affairs, as well as on the latest developments in… areas of interest”
  6. Professional development and critical friends – Twitter allows for a network of colleagues who are in the same industry.
  7. Quality-assured searching – With a properly designed network, asking a question will get you a better answer from your network than a general internet search.
  8. Communicate, communicate, communicate – Twitter allows for concise to the point messages.
  9. Getting with the times has never been so easy! – Twitter is an easy web2.0 tool to use.

Another blog post I was able to find belongs to Carol Cooper-Taylor, who has 50 suggestions for using Twitter.  The fact that the information for this blog is coming from blogs is very important, I think.  This technology is so new, there isn’t much in the way of academic writing on the topic.  I did a Google search and a Google scholar search on the term “micro-blogging and education”  The Google search produced 13384 times more results with most of the results on the first page being blog articles.  I think this shows the nature of the medium, it is cutting edge and academia has not had the time to research this fully.  I believe this is where a lack of acceptance from education administration comes from.  It is not a proven entity, it is not tested, there is too much fear about the risks, and not enough risk taking to support the benefits.  I do think that teachers are being responsible about web2.0 tools such as Twitter.

Laura Walker’s reasons for Twitter focused on the teacher and I think this is appropriate.  The setting that I teach in, grade 7 – 9, in my opinion, would not be the best for student access to Twitter at all times of the day.  Students would have access to all of Twitter which has content that may not be appropriate for a school setting.  As well, the infrastructure of our school isn’t set up for it either.  We do not yet have wireless access to the internet, but it is coming.  And, while there may be a high percentage of kids with the technology to post Twitter comments, not all of them do.  Some have cell phones that are internet capable or have laptops with WLAN capabilities, not all do.  I don’t think web2.0 technologies can be a some, but not all type of technology.  Until schools can ensure 100% possession of the hardware associated with web2.0 tools, they can not be mandated.

I do think that there certainly useful applications for Twitter for teachers.  I think it would be great for teachers within a school or a school district to tweet about what they are doing in their classroom.  Far too often, we are isolated in our classroom with our thoughts on what do I have to do in 5 minutes, what do I have to do in an hour, what do I have to do tomorrow.  By sharing with colleagues what you are working on, teachers can provide support, advice, resources, and perhaps even a shoulder to cry on.  One of the comments I hear from teachers, even within a small school, such as the one I teach in, is the fact they don’t know what is going on in other classrooms.  If teachers are sharing on Twitter, the chances for collaboration and mutual support are increased, for the benefit of teachers and students within the school.

I am really excited about my own personal Twitter account.  I have added some extremely smart people to my Twitter account.  They are active professionals in the educational technology realm and I look forward to learning more about the things they are doing and getting help and advice from them.  There is this thought that teachers are bad sharers and what’s theirs is theirs.  This is not true of teachers on Twitter and the like.  Teachers who are engaged in web2.0 are willing to share, willing to help, and willing to give advice and time.  This is the defining characteristic of web2.0; individuals working together in collaboration towards a goal.

Other Options

There are other options to Twitter in the classroom if a teacher is going to use a micro-blogging software in the classroom.  One tool is called Edmodo.  Edmodo is a a educational tool that has micro-blogging functions as well as file sharing, assignment submission, and class calendar features.  The benefit to a tool like this is that it is completely private.  Nothing can leave the site without the group administrator allowing it.  The standard security features are set to private.

My final resource for those of you who are interested in Twitter is wiki all about Twitter for teachers.  Check it out: http://twitter4teachers.pbworks.com/

All the best and see you in Twitterville.  I can be found under dancoles.

Dan

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3 comments

  1. Dan, I appreciated your initial effort to write this blog in twitterese (if there is such a word). A steady diet of 140 characters at a time on an extended topic is as annoying as reading an entire essay consisting of simple sentences under 10 words each. Do you find TweetDeck notifications really helpful? I should look into adding it. I am having trouble keeping up with the tweets.
    Lori


  2. Dan,

    I noticed you celebrating your twooshes. I loved the meaning for that Twitter term when Mack explained it to us.

    I haven’t tried Tweetdeck yet but I think I need to. I hate missing tweets.
    Ruth


  3. I just wanted to thank you for letting your readers know about Edmodo and the private alternative it provides to Twitter. We appreciate it.

    -Jeff
    Edmodo Co-Founder



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