Thursday, July 1, 2010

Twitter & Foursquare-A Game Worth Playing?

My blog posts, for the most part, follow a predictable pattern. I blog about experiences in ed tech or maybe a new tool I've found that I feel deserves attention. I generally avoid topics that I think will create a stir, in part because I cross-post on my department's blog, but also because I don't like to publicly rain on parades. However, sometimes a lot can be learned from a discourse on a subject and maybe a good comment to a blog post will help me learn something.

So here goes . . . I don't like Foursquare, and I think it deters efforts to encourage educators to use Twitter.

I'm not a "foursquare expert," but I'll explain it as best I can. On Wikipedia, Foursquare is described as a location-based social networking website that allows users to "check in" at locations and earn points, badges, etc. . . . Foursquare can be integrated with Twitter so when a Foursquare user "checks in" the update is broadcast in Twitter.

In the past year I've spent some time talking about the ways I think Twitter can be a great tool for educators to build a PLN that will share ideas and resources related to learning and education. I've tried to dispel the notion that Twitter is for movie stars and narcissists who think the rest of the world cares what they are doing. Because I believe Twitter is a great tool for making connections and sharing ideas with other skilled, passionate educators from around the globe. Then along comes Foursquare which allows users to turn in location-based reporting into a game. Collecting badges and ousting others from their "foursquare Mayor" duties.

Now I'm not arguing there couldn't be educational value attached to Foursquare (on field trips, for example), and I know there is a need to learn technology ourselves so we can help guide students to make wise decisions using mobile technology. I won't even scratch the surface on some of the privacy issues that need to be considered with any location-based programs. And I don't have issues with geolocation games (who doesn't like games?).

I'm focused on Foursquare's impact on Twitter because my twitterstream will now occasionally include:

"John Doe just became Mayor of Best Buy"
"Jane Doe just unlocked her newbie badge"
"I'm at Chick-fil-a at Northgate Mall"

(Sigh) Now I know I could "unfollow" users of Foursquare and these updates would disappear. But a lot of these people often bring real value to my network. I respect and learn with many of these educators, and I don't want to lose that value. And I am not against some of the social aspects of Twitter. I really enjoy some of the support and water cooler banter that is on Twitter every day. So I'll tolerate the updates on where you ate lunch because I value you, your ideas and your commitment to education.

But for the new user, the skeptic, the teacher short on time who is still evaluating Twitter or the tech dept making decisions about whether Twitter is a website worth unblocking for teachers, I think Foursquare is a negative force. I think it adds to the notion that Twitter is just a social tool meant to report "What's happening?" I think while Foursquare helps Twitter become a more "social" tool, it harms the credibility of Twitter as a "learning" tool.

So Foursquare users am I uniformed? Not giving Foursquare a fair chance? Missing out?

Additional Reading:
Image Credits:
Both images used were licensed under CreativeCommons


Marlo Gaddis said...

Funny Em- @GeekMonkee, @eherreid and I had this conversation today at lunch. The thing that concerns me most is the fact that you broadcast that you are not at home (inviting unwelcome guests) but it also reminds me a little of the people who use Twitter to let others know what they are eating or other random things. I am with you- no to Foursquare.

Pat Salvatini said...

I agree - say no to FourSquare. I've contemplated joining in, and probably would if I could do so without the Twitter posts. Personally, I don't want everyone to know where I am at all times. Call me crazy, but we tell our kids not to post this info to their FB pages, yet adults think it's ok for them. Double standard?

Emory said...

@Marlo and @Pat
Thanks for the comments. I'm not sure yet about the value of location based applications. I do think there is a risk to that kind of transparency, but I'm willing to listen and learn more about its applications.
However my real issue is the way foursquare has watered down at least a little of the value of twitter for me. Thanks again to you both for sharing your thoughts.

Daniel Rezac said...

Sounds to me like you just don't like it when folks go off topic. I get a little frustrated when my Twitter stream is flooded with World Cup news, but I realize it's summer and educators are letting their hair down a little bit going on vacations and visiting cool places. Some of these places are the ISTE conference.

When I see a Foursquare tweet it reminds me that folks do still like to have fun, so, sorry I don't agree. I'm going to be an educator who loves to share my strategies and tips via Twitter, but I'm still going to remind folks that I have other enjoyments in life that round me out and make me a whole person. If that clogs up your Twitter stream, then too bad. I am not an educator robot.


Vicki A. Davis said...

Foursquare is definitely not there yet and I'm not excited about foursquare Per se. But rather, location based apps -- and if we had one that was PRIVATE and segmented but allowed us to create media rich augmented reality location-based experiences whether on fieldtrips or just during our day -- it is something that will be very useful, I think.

It may be annoying about Twitter and getting those updates, however, some people are annoyed at blogs because they keep people from reading! They are annoyed at Kindles because it keeps people from books.

We are just at the beginning of this evolution of technology!

Foursquare -- just a tool for learning what location based can be, but we aren't there by a long shot!

Emory said...

Thank you both very much for the comments.
@Daniel While I agree with you that twitter is a great way to connect and share in areas other than education, I think the role of twitter as a tool for building a PLN can be diminished if it is seen as a way to share locations rather than share learning. Besides don't the foursquare updates sound robotic? :)
@Vicki Agreed, there may be huge potential for location based apps in edu but I think the scope and audience is key. And to be clear I don't have a problem with social nature of twitter or foursquare - the updates don't bother me that much. I just wonder if foursquare helps or hurts in making the case for twitter as a learning tool for teachers.