Twitter, A Reflection

tweet

It seems that I have been writing and reading about Twitter all week. My reflection highlights thoughts that continue to nag at me. Ultimately, for me, the 140 character count directly opposes my wanting students to support, elaborate and substantiate their points.  In today’s soundbite society, Twitter is not a tool to help students think critically and prove a point. The more I’m learning about Twitter, the more I see it as invasive into one’s privacy. As an instructor, I follow the syllabus and strive to reflect my institution in a favorable light. If Twitter is not a required course “text or tool”, I’m thinking I have no right to expect students to sign up and follow. If I truly saw it as an added component of communication, then I might add it to the suggestion list. For example, I recommend that students purchase an inexpensive dictionary. While not required, a dictionary is a tool that will clearly benefit them in their assignments. I’m not viewing Twitter as a tool to meet an instructional need when other more direct contact tools such as messaging, email, and conferencing exist.

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This is my response to the question:  In your reading or experience, you may have encountered the use of a microblogging tool like Twitter in an educational setting. Summarize the usage. Do you feel that this tool (and others like it) have a place in education? In what creative ways might it be used? What would be the drawbacks?

Microblogging is a form of blogging, but with a limited capacity of words.  In the case of Twitter, the root “micro” which means small, forces the user to limit the number of characters used to 140. Thus, the term microblogging, truly is a small blog, or written passage. One who Twitters sends a message called a Tweet, and the Tweet or message is limited to an alphanumeric/space combination of 140 characters. If I counted correctly, the preceding sentence has 139 characters which demonstrates the need for conciseness.

Prior to #TT1411, my knowledge of Twitter connected with the entertainment field in the form of “So and so tweeted”.  As a free mode of publicity, I certainly see Twitter as a valuable tool. However, as a tool in education, I’m uncertain. While remaining open-minded, I read Steve Hardagan’s paper on “Social Networking in Education”, David Parry’s article (blog) about “Twitter in Education” and  the article Parry references “Clive Thompson on How Twitter Creates a Social Sixth Sense” with fascination. While Hardagan’s paper provides insights into the umbrella of social networking outlets, Parry and Thompson’s blog type articles offered me a better understanding of Twitter and its possibilities for me as an educator.

Basically, Twitter could be used by the instructor as an announcement board or as Parry calls it, Class Chatter. For example, my class is cancelled because of negative digit temperatures. While students receive notice from the school, a tweet from the instructor would personalize the message and more importantly, it would continue the connection of class participants even when class isn’t physically occurring. Also, Twitter provides another contact method for students to contact each other which could strengthen the Classroom Community. When teaching punctuation, as Parry suggests, comparing Twitter Grammar to formal Rules-Based Writing could be a memorable, creative, and engaging lesson.

Thompson makes a strong case for recognizing Twitter as another tool to be put in an educator’s toolkit. He even goes so far as to say that “the sum is greater than its parts” referencing the followers as the parts and suggests that a collective sixth sense forms as a result of tweeting interaction. Right now, I disagree with Thompson because while life is about the moment, if the moment is that fabulous, why disengage from it to tweet about it?

While Twitter seems to be the new “IT”, Mary Madden and Susannah Fox report in the 2006 Pew Internet & American Life Project that social networking sites such as My Space and Geocities change or disappear as internet capabilities and access improve. Thus, Twitter could move into the land of “Once Upon A Time” with the click of a mouse.

Yet, Twitter must be evaluated as a classroom tool, whether the class meets face to face or online. Ultimately, for me, the 140 character count directly opposes my wanting students to support, elaborate and substantiate their points.  In today’s soundbite society, Twitter is not a tool to help students think critically and prove a point. Further, Twitter is a public forum which many students abhor. Students who want privacy in a classroom setting deserve it.

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