The e-learning exercise for the first week of EDUC5860 – Issues in Digital Technology in Education was to explore Twitter. This included setting up a Twitter account if you didn’t already have one and then tweeting about the class and all things education and tech related with other members of the class and the professor. The class hashtag was established as #EDUC5860 and the class was also encouraged to try tweeting to other related hashtags such as #edchat and #elearning.
Being a long time Twitter user I was a little surprised by the number of classmates who had never used the social media channel previous to this assignment. I found it interesting to observe what questions such students had as they got their footing and made their first tentative tweets. I also enjoyed the opportunity to help them out by passing along some of my own Twitter knowledge and best practices. I took the liberty to set up a Twitter List for the class as I thought it may help some people organize their contacts and follow the class discussion by separating our dialogue from the rest of the Twitter chatter. I feel that many people don’t use Twitter Lists effective or at all. Personally, I like Twitter lists for helping to organize my Twitter contacts by my own multitude of varied interests. Probably even more useful is the fact that Twitter Lists allow me to keep tabs on certain other Twitter users without actually having to follow them all. Some users may have some common interests with me, but may not tweet on the topic on a consistent basis and therefore I usually find that I don’t really need all their tweets showing up in my Twitter feed. Additionally, if I ever want a concentrated stream of information on any one of my personal topics of interest it is only one click away via Twitter Lists. I find it to be a great organization and curation tool that makes contacts and information easier and quicker to find and helps mange the overall feverish pace of Twitter. Organization, curation, information management and search are all vital skills for learning and teaching in the twenty-first century. For more information and ideas on how to effectively use Twitter Lists I would recommend reading Dave Delaney’s insightful post, How to Use Twitter Lists Like a Pro.
Throughout the week’s Twitter discussion I learned about two tools you can use to follow Twitter chats. A Twitter chat is an organized discussion around a particular topic via Twitter that employs a specific hashtag in order to filter out all the other conversation on Twitter. It is most often moderated and has a specific beginning and end time. The first tool was a site simply called TweetChat.com and the second was a similar service called TodaysMeet.com. Both are very simple, but effective if you really want to block out all the other Twitter chatter and focus on one, specific conversation. For a concise guide on how to participate in a Twitter chat, with links to additional tools for participating in a Twitter chat, I would recommend Janet Fouts’ post, How to Participate in a Tweet Chat. If you’re interested in hosting your own Twitter chat then check out The Ultimate Guide to Hosting a Tweet Chat from Forbes.
For me, Twitter remains the backbone of social media. It is simple in concept, yet deceptively powerful. It’s main strengths are in networking, creating communities, research, and real-time information flow. Within the field of education Twitter effectively expands the walls of the traditional classroom to give learning a more global reach. Additionally, Twitter subtly blurs the lines between a student’s life in the classroom and outside the classroom by presenting opportunities for engagement and learning anytime, anywhere, in the palm of a student’s hand.