Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Why Twitter Deserves Your Attention

A few weeks ago I mentioned to one of my college buddies that I had been using Twitter and wondered if he had an account. Since then he has been occasionally sending me clever little emails like the following:
Wondering whether to fix a sandwich or go out to lunch. I am leaning towards going out.

He assumes Twitter, as advertised, is about "What are you doing?" and that most of the updates are about reporting on the real time (mundane) details of one's life. He is not alone. I think a lot of folks are wondering about Twitter and its uses.

Prior to setting up an account I thought "Do I really need another account to keep up with and do I really have time for this?" What can Twitter do for me? But curiosity got the best of me, and although I have seen posts that just report on"what are you doing?" I've found it is a powerful way to communicate ideas. So I'm humbly submitting a few thoughts on how I've used Twitter and share maybe why it might deserve your attention:
  • PLN builder- In past blog entries I've shared some of the blogs I follow with my RSS feedreaders. Twitter, like the feeds from blogs, can be a great tool for continuing to build on your own personal learning network (PLN). Twitter is another way to connect with people and promote important ideas. Because Twitter is limited to 140 characters, tweets are concise and ideas are often updated more quickly than a blog, but tweets can be useful in promoting ideas because the tweets can include a link to a url. One of my first tweets included a link to an blog entry from bloggingagenda.com about why "retweeting" is important. Retweeting is simply sharing someone else's tweet. You retweet if you think your followers might benefit someone else's thought or idea. I've already benefited from the tweets of others and ideas that have been shared with Twitter.
  • Real-time news- Over the weekend while the Iranian elections where taking place, I was reading up on it on Twitter. Instead of getting the CNN version I was getting real time updates from "trending topics." The trending topics (on the lefthand side) measure the topics receiving the most tweets. Although you have to evaluate the source, Twitter allows everyone with an account and network access to report on events. I remember when the plane landed in the Hudson River recently, Twitter was one of the first sources for news. And another friend of mine who uses Twitter follows Lance Armstrong, who uses Twitter to bypass the media and share information with his followers. Twitter gives you real time, unfiltered access to information.
  • Conversations/Feedback- Twitter can be a tool for conversations. April tried this with a post earlier this year, asking what students gain from using technology in their classrooms."Twitter allows you to get immediate feedback from those answering your tweet. So you can tap the knowledge of your followers for feedback or ideas. I've seen national speakers, like Will Richardson and David Warlick, use Twitter in this way during conferences and get really interesting feedback. Although you may not have many responses at first (April :) it is a starting point.
So although I am not guilty of twittering extremes I do think this could be a useful tool for educators and students. And I'm not the only one. Recently the Centre for Learning and Performance Technologies asked teachers to rank their Top 100 Learning Tools 2009 and Twitter was number one (up from 11 in 2008). So look around and kick the tires. See what Twitter can do for you.


Mrs. Edwards said...

I saw this on Free Technology for Teachers this morning and I liked the way Twitter is explained:

"I've written about Twitter's uses for educators numerous times because it is a great way to connect with other teachers, share ideas, and get ideas. A couple of days ago I likened it to a "staff meeting without an agenda." Evan Williams hints at this same idea when he says in this TED talk, "when you give people easier ways to share information, more good things happen.""


Emory said...

You're right. Good quotes. And good things do happen.

aprilpatt said...

I am still holding out hope for some comments. LOL!

April said...

I too have been weary of Twitter because I thought it was a place for people to say "What they are doing." I didn't think it really applied to me, however, as I was reading I began thinking of ways this can apply to me. Twitter can be a great vehicle for communication among myself and other teachers within my grade level/school.