How do I tweet thee? Let me count the ways...
"How is someone writing their diary online, for everyone to read, going to help anyone learn anything? ...Why on earth would I be interested in the minutiae of someone's personal life?
How do you reply to people who feel this way? " -asks Darren Kuropatwa.
My first reaction to Twitter was: let's see what this hype is all about. I had no thoughts for or against it. Plain curious. Being a slow blogger of lengthy posts, I wondered whether the 140 character format could be expressive enough for me. Little did I know.
I gave it a try with a post you read and tweeted. I am forever grateful for that tweet which made several educators start following me. Alan quoted one paragraph to continue the conversation. With his graphs, he took my mind further where I could have never got thinking on my own. That tweet/read/reflect/write/tweet cycle unveiled the clockwork of blogging for me.
"Twitter is like the backchannel of the edublogosphere, but not its replacement" -as Vicky points out. True. But Twitter is a powerful connector underpinning it all. There is no momentous learning or conference these days that is not published in Twitter.
The main advantage I've found from tweeting is reaching a deeper level of conversing and learning. I've been able to get the attention of the bloggers I read and choose to teach me. I had commented on all of their blogs before, but the connection happened via Twitter. This closer link is essential to my learning. I can only make sense of changes if I am engaged. If my thoughts can be at the back of your mind and influence some line in the posts of my teachers, engagement levels soar. Otherwise, I am confined to be stats and flattering audience of a self-referencing network. That's far from our objectives of helping our students become unique contributors to the conversation.
Demystifying experts levels the ground for meaningful contributions to happen. But if there is no two-way interaction, if I cannot see that some tweeted thought of mine can make you think as much as you make me think... what is the difference between reading books and blogs? I think Twitter has been that leveller for me. I do not blog less because I tweet; much on the contrary, I participate more, which is the ultimate purpose of blogging.
Learning online/offline is about creating tailor-made zones of proximal development where you can interact fluently. It's about creating near-togetherness: if we cannot meet f2f, in what other varied ways can I interact with a like-minded learner? When I read a post that blows the top of my head off, I need to connect; grow a network. I seriously doubt blog reading on its own can sustain my learning. I need to meet the blogger.
To me, Twitter is as close as it gets. It's both professional and intimate, yes. I read and exchange on topics that do not always fit an edublog. I get a more complete intellectual and emotional profile of the people I admire. I get a kick out of the many trivial coincidences you find with people who see eye to eye in educational matters. I think that the day I meet those friends f2f, we'll talk about many things blogged, but many more things tweeted.
Apart from flat classrooms, we'll discuss nachos/asados with David, world dominance with Steve and perhaps tango with you, Darren. How bloggable are these topics in our edublogs? No, that's for silly Twitter. Now tell me, how much do those little things contribute to creating a proximal, friendly zone where you feel learning is unforced and a natural consequence of being there? How crucial is that to networking when homophily is so instrumental in forging connectedness? Many have thought Twitter can be used in the classroom. I still do not know if we need that tool. Not until we can explain what we can achieve with it that could not be done otherwise. Yet what I have learnt in Twitter School necessarily makes me reflect on classroom practices from a student's perspective. In my blog, I am the expert on my own point of view. In my classroom, I may be an expert in my area. In Twitter I can only be one more learner. Networked and engaged. I am experiencing first hand the participation path I would like to unlock for my most silent students.
This is just how Twitter works for me. There are countless other ways. Here a mosaic: