in his blog on “the twitter experience” (in german), michael kerres suggests that twitter, one of a growing number of browser-operated microblogging tools “is not suited to support teaching/learning processes and should not be used that way either. it is rather an amusing accompaniment, smalltalk while learning and working – and that’s ok after all, isn’t it?”
actually, i do think that’s ok, too – but having been around on twitter for a (short) while now and using it daily since, i would like to analyse this new spectre of social media with respect to serious use both in class and in business.
twitter in class
at our school, bruce spear is already using twitter (with blogs) as part of his graduate course “business english”very successfully. when he is asking students to create their own blogs and tweets, he creates an “atmosphere of cooperation” quite unlike what we are used to at most learning institutions today. when the students have created their own blogs and have begun to swarm out, says spear:
“Then they’ll find some interesting stuff and be all excited to share it with you and the others, and by then you have linked them altogether and can point others to them, rewarding everyone for discovering good stuff and set up an atmosphere of discovery and sharing. Lots of show and tell, everybody likes to show their stuff.”
twitter can be a useful tool in this context to microblog about blogs and interesting finds. not everything deserves an entire article posting. once you begin, you’ll be surprised how much you can say in 140 chars or less. besides, most of our students have ample experience in communicating briefly what matters to them most – via SMS, chat, and various social networking sites.
twitter for teams
i use twitter myself for exchange of quick bits of information within our school’s 7-member e-learning team, usually in tandem with other tools like our own blog, a wiki and a newsforum inside a learning management system (ILIAS). within project-based team work, twitter has its own place as a useful addendum for rapid-fire comments often more emotional and more direct than well-thought out articles, emails, etc. – when polling or quickly sharing impressions, twitter clearly wins. i have now taken to using twitter to send encouragement notices to team members quickly, and i will do the same with students in the future.
twitter for communities
most social media tools enable communities to grow, gather and share content etc. this is a common place among most modern users. Twitter and twitter-like tools (yes there are others: e.g. identi.ca, )create a soi-disant “public timeline” that is a giant nexus of bits of information untainted by too much … of anything. but the wrapping – a joke, a quote, a pic – still adds to the value of the message and makes a big difference to the sharing process.
twitter for managers
if you are like me – a freak or gourmet (as you wish) of information displays and visualisation, you’ll love the different ways of finding out about the growth of your network (twittercounter), the growth and character of your follower’s flock of interests (twittersheep) or contributors to any topic (twitterscoop) – and this is only the very tip of the info iceberg. particularly useful for business use though – because it is now possible to follow the grapevine itself, give it a name and a shape. twitter channels and shapes the informal information flow – the first tool to do this with such simplicity and effectiveness. that informal flow we’ve been agonising over as professionals in knowledge management for decades! watch barack obama – trensetter extraordinaire – he’s on twitter, of course. and he’s got a management job to do.
after all that – kerres’ view of twitter as “amusing accompaniment” seems too shortsighted for serious discussion. there is music in the air, and it’s tweet.
twitter for innovators
it is the collective use of several web 2.0 tools that stands for innovation – new both in character, feel and result: the formula
ftp + gopher + [your favourite protocol of the 1970-90s here]
does not yield the same as
wiki + twitter + blog + del.icio.us + [your favourite new
web2.0 tool here]
it will be our, and our students’ job, to figure out over the next 5,000 days what exactly we can get out of this, and whether it is going to solve any of our real problems. i believe it can, so let’s get to it. the list of things i have learnt about and people i have met (with not only social but professional gain) over the past few weeks in what amounts to a time total of perhaps 1-2 days is a-ma-zing to me. and i am used to expanding my virtual universe! on the same token, i can imagine that twitter and co. can seem overwhelming to the uninitiated. especially considering the large amount of salespeople who are also there spamming the airwaves. fortunately there is a sufficient number of kind and gentle mentors out there to make it easier for you.