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Learning tweets (Part 1)

July 22, 2009

Instigated by various group discussions on LinkedIn, I began wondering if I shouldn’t take a second look at Twitter. For the discussions (grippingly enough) were about whether you can use this micro blogging phenomenon as an educational tool.

To be up-front, I’m one who never really got the chatting-thing. Remember ICQ? The dinosaurs among us will. It was the ‘it-thing’ in the late nineties. People were chatting all over the place with friends and strangers all over the world. I think I tried it for about 2 weeks, then lost interest. I found it boring. Really truly deeply and utterly boring.

Therefore, it won’t come as a surprise that I’ve been quite sceptical about Twitter.

Earlier this year, the BBC Morning News highlighted it in one of their specials; and this triggered some curiosity. For if it’s that big a deal to be on the BBC morning news; maybe I was missing something?

Looking for answers, I checked out the Twitter site. Guess what? I found it boring. Really truly deeply and utterly boring. It’s nothing but a plain record of nonsensical babbling adults, who obviously have a lot of time on their hands. Why in the world would I want to know that ‘Wim is late for a meeting’? or for that matter, ‘Jorge is having a salad?’. Why doesn’t Wim just call his colleagues and let them know he’s detained?! And, good for you Jorge! But I really can’t be bothered.

What dismayed me most though, was to see that even one of my favourite television programmes, CNN GPS, is on Twitter. The presenter, Fareed Zakaria, is undisputedly an amazingly intelligent man. Again, am I missing something here?

I thought I was. So, I have been reading up on Twitter and its usage as an educational tool. Very convincing was an article in the Washington Post, by Susan Kinzie. Naturally she states opposing arguments, backing my reservations; but also tells of one professor (Mary Knudson) who successfully uses Twitter in her medical writing class. Then there’s Tom Barret. His name keeps popping up everywhere. He seems to be the one to follow, if you really want to learn about Twitter in the classroom.

As an ‘it-thing’, Twitter still baffles me; but my personal quest has been a learning one. Used well, Twitter can be a marketing tool par excellence. I also see possibilities in using it as part of a personal career plan; call it personal branding. I’ll probably use it myself in the (near) future for this purpose.

And I now also back it as a learning tool. Providing there are proper restrictions and clear-cut defined learning objectives. Using it purely for the sake of technology is in my opinion pointless. There has to be a didactical conceptual setting, with Twitter as a means to reach your overall learning objectives.

Then, to those who looked beyond the hype and stretched this Web 2.0 possibility further than was expected; who took pains in setting up examples and sharing their experiences, I hereby salute you.

Here are some links you might find useful; most are examples of Twitter in classroom:
English articles:
Google Waves Preview
How To Use (Internal) Micro blogging For Education
Nine great reasons why teachers should use Twitter
Professors experiment with Twitter as teaching tool
School Systems’ Tweets Are a One-Way Street
Twitter for Academia
Twenty-Five Interesting Ways to use Twitter in the Classroom
Using Twitter for learning

Dutch articles:
De onderwijs-Twitter
Twitter in het onderwijs
Twitteren met Mees’ klas

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