Monday, February 7, 2011

Twitter: A Social-Media, Multi-Purpose Power Tool

There are not many people I personally know in education that use twitter. Many of the people I know turn their noses up at twitter either because they misunderstand twitter as primarily a status-update mechanism, or because they believe it's an untested novelty with no merit. How much they misunderstand.

Yes, twitter can be used for status updates, but to only use it for status updates is an exceedingly superficial way to make use of resource with ostensibly endless means of employment. So, educationally speaking, to use twitter to inform people about "snow days," scholarship reminders, and newsletters only scratches the surface, folks.

There is actually a "universe" of sorts that orbits around the concept of twitter. Brian Solis and Jesse Thomas have recently collaborated to create the "Twitterverse" poster, an infographic that visually explains and categorizes twitter related applications currently being used to extend twitter's purpose, function, and potential.

From "Twitcause" (an application to help non-profit organizations extend their message on twitter to millions of people), to "Flowtown" (a marketing tool for businesses to capitalize on free social media information to advertise their product/service), and from "yfrog" (which allows you to share pictures and video on twitter), to foursquare (a twitter-based location application that is half game, half interactive guide), twitter is everywhere.

Thomas Friedman just wrote of the power of twitter as a force more significant than the "the fall of the Berlin Wall" or the "rise of Google." Brian Solis recently asserted in his coverage of a wide-ranging twitter analysis, "Twitter continues to change how we discover, communicate, and share. Each time we do, we reveal a bit more about who we are and what moves us. As we embrace the new year, Twitter’s numbers will expand, but I believe the nature of the service and also how we use it will change significantly."

Not only do we misunderstand and under-utilize twitter in the field of education, we are entirely unaware of its digital influence on society, and (hence) do not grasp its potential as a tool for learning.

So, what's the first step for educational leaders in appreciating twitter's possibilities? Here are some steps:

  • Register for a twitter account.(obviously) Optimally, complete this step and the following with a process partner. 
  • Search for a twitter education-based discussion list (called a hash tag), such as #edchat
  • Explore! Watch how others are posting information using specific applications. Notice how they refer to each other. Watch how they post their "tweets" to multiple discussion lists. Follow other twitter users that post interesting information. 
  • Begin to experiment. Use an application. Post something interesting to a discussion list. Engage another user in a dialogue. Re-tweet someone's original tweet to give them credit for finding the source. 

Only when we begin to comprehend the digital tools being prolifically used can we begin to use them to meaningfully facilitate learning, deep understanding, and application of knowledge.

1 comment:

  1. To appreciate the added value of using Twitter for your business, you have to stop viewing Twitter as just a social media tool that allows people to tweet 140-character messages.

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