Should Every Teacher in the World Really be on Twitter?

creative commons licensed (BY-SA) flickr photo by jez`: http://flickr.com/photos/girlgeek/3374620636

So often it is said, teachers must be on Twitter. For example, Peter DeWitt’s provides 3 Reasons You Need Twitter More Than It Needs You! while Mark Barnes gives 5 Reasons Every Person in the World Should Be On Twitter. The question though is whether Twitter is the answer? Teachers are encouraged to develop their own personal/professional learning network, but does this automatically equal Twitter? I am not saying that I am against Twitter (see for example my posts here, here and here.) I am just wondering, like Audrey Watters, whether Twitter is the best option for online professional development? Here then are some alternatives for cultivating connections online through aggregation, bookmarking and speaking with people:

Aggregation

When I started my PLN, content and connections came via Twitter. I found resources from those I followed and various hashtags, such as #vicpln and #edchat. Connections and relationships felt like they worked as I only had a small network. However, as the numbers of people I followed grew, the medium changed. Although there were more ideas being shared from a wider array of people, it started to lose something. Although lists offers one way of managing noise, I turned to Feedly as a way of managing connections in order to build stronger relationships. Feedly is a news aggregation application, which means that instead of going to different sites to check for updates, RSS allows you to keep track of updates. This is particiularly important for blogs and news sites which are updated regularly. Although I could subscribe to posts, I have enough coming into my email as it is. What I like about Feedly is that I am able to organise posts into categories, quickly flick through them on whatever device that I am on, as well as easily post links and quotes to other applications in order to share with others.

Feedly is not the only aggregator out there. Some swear by Flipboard and Zite (which was recently bought out by Flipboard), while Pocket also offers many possibilities, especially if you have subscriptions forwarded to it. I am also really taken by the idea of syndication as a way of creating a personalised aggregation. A great example of this is the Connected Courses community. Having dabbled with Paper.li, I wonder if this would be a better way of bringing a community together. Although this could be more easily done using something like Tagboard, not everyone in the community uses the same #hashtag, making it that bit more difficult.

Bookmarking

An alternative to aggregation and syndication is social bookmarking. Personally I use Diigo. I came upon it via the Ed Tech Crew group and my practise has grown from there. Some of the benefits include the ability to curate a personalised library of links, annotations, notes and tags that can include not only your own items, but also links to others as well. Like Feedly, Diigo provides the flexibility to work across platforms using a range of add-ons, extensions and bookmarklets, although I still find it easier to use through the browser, rather than on a mobile device. However, the most useful feature of Diigo is the ability to search for resources that you can’t quite find or have forgotten about.

There are other alternatives when it comes to curation, such as Delicious, Pinterest and Evernote. I could spend all day arguing why Diigo is the most useful or provides the best features. However, at the end of the day it comes down to personal choice. For a more extensive list of the alternatives when it comes to bookmarking and curation, see John Pearce’s extensive presentation. The benefit of curation, Tom Barrett argues, is not about whether you will continually use all the links you save, but about building a resource you can dig through and mine for ideas at a later time.

Sound and Vision

One of the complaints about Twitter is that due to constraints it does not properly grasp the personal and limits depth of dialogue. An alternative that has really taken off for me lately has been Voxer. A touch-to-talk application, Voxer allows you to communicate with a community via voice, text and image. Joe Mazza calls it his very own personalised podcast, This may not seem that revolutionary, but there is something slightly more humane about the human voice. I think that is the success of podcasts in general. In addition to voice, you can add as many contributors as you like. For more information, see Pernille RIpp’s post.

An alternative to Voxer is Google Hangouts. Hangouts allows you to connect ten people at once through video. In order to go beyond this, there is the option of broadcasting the conversation to the world and involving others through backchannels, such as Today’s Meet. This is the process used by Amanda Rablin and Roland Gesthuizen with their online ACCE Learning Network show. The other way of extending the conversation beyond ten people is by using MIT’s open sourced Unhangout platform. Based around Hangouts, Unhangout allows you to start centrally and then split off into various small sessions as needed. The only other feature that is sometimes overlooked when it comes to Hangouts is the ability to communicate via text. Like Facebook Messenger, these conversations provide the means to create quick and easy conversations with a wide audience without filling up the inbox.


Interestingly, last year there was a report published by Kathryn Holmes, Greg Preston, Kylie Shaw and Rachel Buchanan about ‘What Twitter Offers Teachers.’ They studied the tweets of 30 leading educators, as well as streams of some popular #hashtags, for their evidence. There findings were:

  • Twitter is a filter for educational content
  • Twitter facilitates positive, supportive, contact between teachers but not sustained educational conversations
  • Educator tweeters are not prone to tweeting inane meaningless comments
  • The majority of hashtag posts contain educational links
  • Hashtags enable access to a wide variety of web-based resources and news without the need to interact with others or to sift through the personal communications between othersTwitter offers connections with a network of like-minded educators
  • Twitter gives a user total control over the level of interaction and focus
  • The key characteristics of effective professional development could be accomplished through the use of Twitter.

Going beyond this list, what interests me is why just Twitter? Why not all platforms? Why not a focus on the connected educator, rather than just Tweechers? In the post script it is stated that more research is needed into the impact of Twitter on the classroom. However, I think that what is really needed is reseach into the impact of being connected as a whole on educators (and learners for that matter too). However, as Alan Levine pointed out while reflecting on Connected Courses, that the data which we collect and collate often misses serendipitous nature of learning.

Above anything, it needs to be remembered that there are many ways to foster connections and they don’t all need to be on Twitter, let alone online at all. Although digital tools make connections more doable, not everyone is comfortable being active in such spaces. However, this is not to say that they cannot or are not connecting. At the end of the day, what matters is why people are connecting. Maybe moving forward this should be our message moving forward? So, how are you connecting beyond Twitter, I would love to know. Your comments, as always, are most welcome.



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Aaron Davis

I am an Australian educator supporting schools with the integration of technology and pedagogical innovation. I have an interest in how together we can work to make a better world.

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Should Every Teacher in the World Really be on Twitter? by Aaron Davis is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

9 thoughts on “Should Every Teacher in the World Really be on Twitter?

  1. Hi Aaron,
    Good post! I agree with you – I think that whilst Twitter has so many fantastic benefits, it may not be to everyone’s liking. Me personally, I use Twitter, Google+ and Feedly. However, I find the Melbourne TeachMeets to be most valuable. For me, nothing beats the discussions and chats that are a result of face to face meetings. The next best thing is social media for meeting/following/discussing/learning with people I wish I could meet face to face.
    Michelle

    1. It is strange how face to face can really change the dynamics of online connections. Does not have to be that often, it can be just a chance encounter.

  2. Hello Aaron,
    I am agreeing with Michelle, this is a terrific post! With the encouragement of folks like George Couros (http://georgecouros.ca/blog/), Silvia Tolisano (http://langwitches.org/blog/), and Sue Waters (http://www.theedublogger.com/), my blog has morphed into my professional portfolio. I have a dedicated page where visitors can see what I am learning and what I am sharing. http://goo.gl/mZWSRf
    To steal a phrase from Tom Whitby – when asked what it is he does, he tweeted, “I learn and I share.” I couldn’t have said it better myself. While Twitter is a stalwart of my personal learning, it’s not for everyone.
    Twitter chats and EdCamps (TeachMeets) are energizing shots of personal learning, but all of these experiences somehow circle back to my blog. I get so much value from reading other people’s work – I try to comment on at least one post each day. The conversations that spring from blog posts and comments are fantastic relationship and connection builders!
    Thank you for the knowledge and for providing this learning forum,
    Bob

    1. It is interesting that you talk about blogs Bob as Audrey Watters posts the question as whether we are going to see a return to blogging in the future. I guess a lot circles back to my blog too, but I still think that that it is more complicated than that. I feel that I gave many ‘residences’. Although these have changed over time. However, I do not solely live in one place or space. Even when I think about my blog. I use Twitter and Google+ to get the message out. I place my images on Flickr in order to apply CC licences. I more often than not go back to Diigo in search of a link that has escaped me. At the end of the day, it is always complicated. I really like Dean Shareski’s post on Visitors and Residents in regards to this matter http://ideasandthoughts.org/2014/05/12/mapping-the-internet/

  3. Well structured and quite right, Twitter is one social media vehicle. I am an avid tweep, I run networks for educators using it but make sure those networks also have Google+ and LinkedIn as alternatives.
    Professional development is by it’s nature individual. So choices should be made. Lots of colleagues do not feel comfortable online. I find that colleagues that become friends lead to links on Facebook, meet at Teachmeets and other education events or face to face meetings.
    There is no way that you will ever have all teachers on one social media choice – go with what you are comfortable with.

    My best way of linking thanks to Twitter has become through regular involvement in #edchats globally including #aussieEd, #satchatoc, #ukedchat, #sltchat, #dlchat, #edchatnz … They enable me to make connections with educators I would never meet otherwise.

  4. Great post! Good info as well as valid points. I have a Twitter list called “Face-to-face” for the exact reason that those Tweets somehow mean more to me. It’s funny that this list includes people I have only recorded Google Hangouts with! I would add that Twitter is a great introduction to the world of edchat due to its short sharp format and always try to remind myself that about 80% of teachers have never done any of the above. I’m researching social media use in education this year and will be referring to this, I’m sure! Thanks Aaron. Really useful.

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