On the somewhat surreal occasion of the 1,000th person to follow me on Twitter (really, how is that possible?), and since Twitter seemed to be on the tip of everyone’s tongues at EduCon this weekend, it’s probably an appropriate moment to reflect on how I’ve evolved in my thinking on this strange yet somehow important little tool.
In my session on Saturday, when I opened up the discussion on personal learning networks, the first response was simply, “Twitter”. We attempted to define it, someone mentioned “Twitter guilt” I believe, and various folks weighed in on why the did or did not “get” Twitter. At some point later that day (lunch maybe), I made the comment that it seemed a lot of profound, previously bloggable ideas were being “Twitterialized”, which, of course, I think someone Twittered. (That’s why I’m blogging about it…so there.) Case in point, when Kristin Hokanson was asking the very probing questions of the morning panel on Sunday, she started one with “In 140 characters or less…” and we all laughed.
But that idea has been sticky in my brain. I wonder if this 140 character world in which many of us spend much of our time is in some way dumbing down the conversation. And my thinking still feels pretty thin on this because for some reason Twitter just remains hard to fully get my head around, hard to peg. But here are some somewhat random thoughts, not all original btw:
*I’m thinking that in my case at least, only a much smaller percentage of those people are actually tuning into my Tweets. Even so, I know that I’m pretty much an outlier here, an outlier in all of this at this point at least, seven years into this grand network building experiment that has turned my life on its head.
*It feels like some use Twitter because 140 characters alleviates the pressure of developing and articulating ideas in a full-fledged blog post. At some point this weekend, we were talking about this from a reader standpoint and I was struck by how almost equal numbers actually liked just reading the short blurb while others missed the context. Which makes me wonder what if any affect Twitter is having on my reading.
*Twitter gets most frustrating to me when I see long lists of Tweets from people who are responding to the individuals who Tweeted them giving me absolutely no context for what the response means or is about. These usually end up being something like “@soandso That was amazing! Thanks for sharing it! This will definitely transform my classroom!” or “@soandso My mother used to say the same thing! ;0)” some of which compel me to start clicking through links to gain some understanding that usually ends up being personal or irrelevant. (Mea Culpa, I know, but I try to limit it.) There is a signal to noise ratio here that is more acute than blogs I think, and I’ve started doing some unfollowing because of it. (Not that I follow that many folks already, I know.)
*And since I only feel like I can follow a few people or risk “Twitter guilt” (and hours of my life) by not reading every Tweet, most of the people I follow are people I actually know and have met in person. (In fact this weekend I was able to add quite a few to my blogger/Twitter life list.) Btw, how do people “follow” 657 others?
*Twitter is most powerful to me when people ask questions and get quick answers and suggestions. And you see that happening all the time. It really can be “PD on Demand” in many ways.
*Twitter is also powerful in terms of networking, no question. The ability to send links or interesting ideas to people who might not currently have you on their radar makes for a pretty connective tool.
*I struggle with the marketing aspect of Twitter. And I am guilty of this as well, the “New Blog Post: The Twitterialization of Blogging, Networks, Etc” http://tinyurl…” type of Tweet that serves to bring readers in faster than a speeding RSS aggregator. I feel kind of slimy for some reason when I do that. (Not slimy enough, of course, to not do that at some points, but slimy enough to not do it every time.)
Obviously, Twitter wasn’t created to be the learning/professional development tool that it seems to have become. And I think in many ways it struggles under the weight of that. And yes, there is some network capital to be harnessed here. And yes, 1,000 “followers” (I really, really hate the way that sounds) makes it compelling. But while there may not be a direct cause and effect, since I started using Twitter last March I’ve been blogging less and reading blogs less and wondering more about where all of this takes us in the end.
Now, to post this on Twitter…
Technorati Tags: twitter, educon, learning, networks
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Eric Grant says
I believe you mentioned that term during Chris Lehmann’s session on New Tools and the Dreams of Dewey.
Brian Crosby says
Will, I agree … Twitter takes time and that cuts into “blogging” time and when you share “snippets” (Twits) of your thinking it tends to release some of the passion behind what often gets you to write a more thoughtful piece on your blog AND you kind of feel people have already heard about this (no matter how “incompletely”) on Twitter, so the wind goes out of your sails and the post doesn’t happen.
However, there are those powerful connecting parts of Twitter too (as you mentioned). I feel much more connected to “my network” because I feel I travel with them and have a sense of what they are up to and get immediate feedback from them AT TIMES … and I think that is part of the addiction.
I’ve tried to cut down on my Twittering time … and I have. I also know their are times when even the jovial give and take … ribbing each other and sharing a funny (or sometimes sad) experience is part of the mystique.
Well I’ve rambled here a bit and probably missed some Tweets …
Ken Pruitt says
What about the thought that a lot of what we come across is not worthy of being a completely flushed out blog post? Time is still biggest roadblock to a teacher and twitter allows folks to feel connected without feeling required to flip through 20 or so posts a day. One plus I see is that Twitter has done an excellent job of limiting the obligatory “Links” post that appears when one realizes they haven’t posted anything of value in a week or so. 🙂 ( I did it too)
I don’t think Twitter in its current incarnation will last, but I hear rumblings of them releasing the code and allowing folks to host their own Twitter style app on their personal blogs.
Is it a better tool as a widget or will that shrink the circle too much for it be useful?
As a side note, EduCon didn’t change the conference, but it took a serious side step (a good thing) with the addition of Ustream, Wikispaces, Twitter, and Skype. I think it was Henry T that said “it was the best conference that I did not attend,” and I agree whole heartedly.
I disagree that a lack of chat is considered a bad thing. Some of us really want to hear the speaker and it is difficult to do that and keep up with 100 lines a second.
Nice work all around.
Nick Pernisco says
I think I know the feeling of being overwhelmed by Twitter. At first, I didn’t get it. Then, I thought I got it and proceeded to follow a ton of people who sounded interesting. Then, I became overwhelmed by the magnitude of tweets I can’t keep up with. Now, I’m trying to weed through the non-essential follows and pair it down to about 10 or 20. I do have some favorites I’ll never abandon.
I think this is similar to how all technology takes us by storm… we go through various periods of confusion, intrigue, interest, overwhelmingness (is that even a word?), rock bottom, and then rebirth with a clearer understanding.
meg ormiston says
The world of Twitter, I have come to love it, but also suffer from Twitter guilt! The power with me is the “PD on demand” and how the twitterverse connects me to more blog posts. Sure I have my RSS feeds, yet the short to the point Twits seem to connect me to more ideas and actually more reading and a different type of thinking.
Still don’t have my finger on it yet!
Back to Twitter!
AJ Cann says
I’ve been thinking about this since I first read the post (via Twitter, obviously – it took another 6 hours to show up in my RSS aggregator). And the verdict is:
If Twitter use is affecting your blog posts (for example), you’re misusing one or both of these tools. If you decide to abandon blogging in favour of Tweets, that’s fine, but it’s not fine if the two technologies start to merge. Different platforms, different affordances.
Bill Ferriter says
Enjoying this conversation…probably because I’ve jumped feet first into the Twitter pool. What I have to remind myself is that Twitter is not designed to be the primary source of communication that I have with other people or the primary forum for exploring/expressing my thoughts.
Instead, it’s a place to get just-in-time support from other likeminded individuals….or a place to share a provocative thought that’s just starting to form in the back of my mind…or a place to stumble on great resources I would never have found on my own.
I find myself starting ideas in Twitter and then expanding on them in my own blog. Or learning about ideas from others and then looking to see how they expand on them in their blogs. There’s a bit of a synergy between the two tools that I think is healthy.
It’s like anything, right? If Twitter is the sum total of one’s professional communication, they sure ain’t all that articulate! 140 characters is great for running a nugget past someone. It sure ain’t a gold rush, though!
Thanks for the conversation….
Will– I appreciate your timing on this very much. Just finished a thoughtfeast on my own blog regarding Twitter, based on a conversation that Bill (above) and I are having– we both started using Twitter at the same time last weekend.
I am remembering a Tweet you put out there from Educon a day or two ago: “Do we want the computer to program the child?” Seems to me you might be asking a version of the same question of yourself: to wit, is Twitter programming your reading?
I would be honored if you’d come take a look and comment.
Mike Parent says
Will and your readers,
I suggest that you go to this post on FiresideLearning (http://firesidelearning.ning.com/profiles/blog/show?id=1786468%3ABlogPost%3A14769).
It is a shocking tale of terror and how Twitter was involved. (No, its not a “Twitter is Evil” story.
Mike Parent says
Sorry, the link is: http://firesidelearning.ning.com/profiles/blog/show?id=1786468:BlogPost:14769
I was one of the people who used twitter with Reuven Werber during this incident. I felt helpless but a deep concern for someone obviously in terror. I am glad the show of caring may have calmed and comforted. Connections are what we can make to real people with real lives via twitter. It worked as a lifeline to the outside world. We were needed. We responded.
Pam Pritchard says
I was introduced to twitter at the NECC conference in Georgia and I have loved it every since.
For me, I am learning at Twitter from people in the field and at a quicker rate than if I met these people in person or read the information in a book. The 140 characters are just what I need to get me interested in a topic and then I can do the research if I want to learn more.
Twitter has become my social network for technology questions and information.
Emily Vickery says
Great and timely conversation. I am new to Twitter and the focus of what I look for in using it is the power of collaboration among students. For example, the NPR story Middle School Kids Write Story on Twitter–http://www.npr.org/blogs/bryantpark/2007/12/middle_school_kids_write_story.html.
And, the wiki Twitter Collaboration Stories–http://onlinefacilitation.wikispaces.com/Twitter+Collaboration+Stories.
I’ll zoom into Twitter from time to time, not a fixation. But, having said that, Twitter also informs my professional practice with the nuggets Bill speaks of.
I have been reading and blogging about Neil Postman’s book, Amusing Ourselves to Death, and he shares some very deep and related information related to literacy, thinking, information, and how we are being shaped by new forms of media. Although his book was written before blogging, wikis, podcasts, and the like emerged, I am finding powerful insights in his arguments and relationships between them and the web2 world. I just finished reading chapter five, the Peek-a-Boo World, and it reminded me so much. In relation to the emergence of the telegraph, he writes,
I think Twitter has a great function, but, as you do in your post, it must continually be analyzed as to its impact on the quality and depth of our own personal learning. I think that when we fail to reflect deeply on the impact of new forms of media/communication on our level and quality of discourse and understanding, we give control to the tool. For example, how much time are we spending twittering when we could be reading authoritative and intelligent books and articles on the same topics or on topics that inform our current practices? Our we taking the time to think deeply and reflect on our own practice, or is life twittering by in bits and bytes of related, but fragmented consciousness? Are we looking for quick and surface answers to deep complex issues? Are we failing to look upon history and situate what is new on the shoulders of giants that came before? For me, it is a challenge to do both, but well worth it.
Sorry for the long comment. Continuing to wrestle with this as well,
Stephen Kennedy says
This is my first knowledge of twitter. As a rapidly aging administrator in a private school in Atlanta, I recently read your/Will’s article in Independent School magazine –on reading and the read/write web. When you visited our school a year or so ago, you sparked some excellent discussions. Twitter, as I hear it, can be a kind of haiku of networking/exchange of information. I like that. But I need to experience it first. Thanks for keeping the ideas alive, Will.
Neil A. Rochelle says
As always, you are one of the influential people in my life that can take my thoughts and put them into words as I struggle to find them. The notion of anytime, anywhere professional development or seeking new ideas is something I find powerful and the reason I twitter. At first, it seemed like it was a world-wide IM machine. Fortunately, there were some great folks engaged in a professional dialogue that changed the purpose instantaneously for me. Imagine students spending a class period on Twitter seeing real-life, real-time information to formulate learning on a particular concept. I know you can!
Pamela Carr says
Will, I think that Twitter is a great way to network. It is so much more personal than blogging. I love reading and responding to blogs, but never really feel like part of a network because of it.
With Twitter I feel like I am part of a network. I have learned so much from the people I follow, I have added more blogs to my regular reading list because of it and I have shared information with people I never would have connected to without it.
I think the power of Twitter is following people that you don’t normally associate with, otherwise it is just glorified IM.