A Twitter Pushback. . .

Dina—blogging over at The Line—caught up with my recent post on Twitter and left me a comment that’s challenging my thinking a bit.  She asked:


Bill– I wonder if you’re in a perfect position to talk about the valueset of Twitter *language*. Does Twitter not imply: You can communicate everything of importance within 160 characters? Or: revision is unnecessary, perhaps even SILLY (there isn’t even a function for revision on Twitter itself, just “delete”!) 🙂 Don’t get me wrong– I joined Twitter over the weekend and I’m having a ball. But I am fascinated with what the Twitterverse is saying to us about communication and human connection. It is not value-neutral. No technology is. Would love your thoughts.

Good questions, Dina—and questions that I think connect back to our ideas of what relationships are and what role technology can play in the development of a person’s “network of learners.”  This is a topic that I wrote about recently and that the brilliant folks at In Practice have been wrestling with as well.

In my mind, Twitter’s not designed to be the primary vehicle for an individual’s communication and human connection to others.  While I value the people in my Twitter family greatly—in fact, many of them are just plain brilliant and I’m thankful that they’re willing to let me “listen” to their Tweets—I don’t see Twitter as the best way of getting to know them deeply or to figure out who they are as educators or as people.

To me, Twitter’s not about extended conversation and reflective thought.  Consider some of the things I’ve done with Twitter this week:

  • Learned about a free discussion board service.
  • Shared blog entries that I’d written.
  • Read about 10 blog entries written by other people.
  • Seen several great articles shared by those in my Twitter family.
  • Asked and answered a few provocative questions.
  • Had my thinking challenged once or twice.
  • Helped out with a Skypecast being conducted in another user’s class.
  • Sent out two or three resources to help others with questions about topics I know.

Twitter is a really quick and really easy (which are two reasons Twitter’s so successful) way to share resources and get ready access to a collection of people who share a common interest.  It’s a way to join together with other likeminded individuals and offer just-in-time support to one another.

What’s really neat is when you start to pair Twitter with all of the other forms of communication that digital folks are using.  Most Twitter-ers (including you!) have blogs.  Most are keeping Delicious accounts.  Most have feed readers.  Finding and following all three give you a better sense of who someone is, what they know, and how they feel about issues that are of shared interest.

Clay Burrell—a remarkable thinker whose blog I started reading a few months back—described it (ironically enough in a Tweet) as “triangulating” someone.  I thought that was a neat way to think about it.

I certainly don’t think that you can communicate everything of value in Twitter’s 140 characters….But I don’t think that Tweets are the end of an individual’s communication.  Instead, they’re a new beginning that often lead to additional thought and expression carried out in other more appropriate and extensive forums.

I guess what I’m trying to say (in an all too long winded kind of way) is that Twitter is not designed to be a stand alone tool for communication.  It is only one tool that can help users connect to, learn from and support others.

Does this make sense?

Image retrieved from http://grow.covlife.org/1031/wp-content/pressdocs/File/Push-Back-web.jpg on January 24, 2008.

9 thoughts on “A Twitter Pushback. . .

  1. Mike

    Twitter. Hmm. Sorry to rain on the parade a bit, but in the daily rush of trying to teach sufficient material, grading, lesson preparation, etc. I find such diversions to be a luxury for which I don’t have time, rather like video games, etc. Yes, I know Twitter isn’t a video game, but the issue is time and usefulness.
    I barely have time to drop by this site for a few minutes here and there to read and occasionally chat about policy and practice, but Twitter? I wonder sometimes if we aren’t doing more harm than good by pulling ourselves and our students out of the classroom, and particularly out of books, in a wide variety of ways.

  2. Bill Ferriter

    Wow—Great to see so much conversation around Twitter! I had some doubts about whether or not my posts would resonate.
    Here’s an interesting question for you: What role (if any) can Twitter play in teaching and learning?
    Is this a tool that we should seek to embed into our instruction? Would it resonate with your students?
    Or is this something that you’re going to use only for your own professional development?
    Looking forward to your replies….
    (plugusin on Twitter).

  3. Renee Moore

    I’ve been fighting off the urge to investigate Twitter as I already feel like I have too much information coming at me. But you’ve really piqued my interest with this post. Ever consider a career in sales?

  4. Pat

    I’m intrigued with Twitter because of your posts. I’ve gotten an account and started to write. I still haven’t figured out how you reply to things yet. I guess it will just take time.

  5. Patrick

    Clay’s analysis of twitter, in 140 characters or less, was right on, and I like how you placed twitter squarely where I feel it belongs: as an entry point into various aspects of your own learning network. You gain access to more from the people in your network.

  6. Bill

    Dina and Joe are both building colleagues I introduced to twitter. I agree it has its place in our communication toolbag. As a Foreign Language teacher-communication is what I teach and practice globally. Twitter has expanded not only my instructional methodology but the social circles I can call upon to interact with my digital natives. After all- my students benefit from my professional growth.
    Need a global partner in your neck of the woods for a great project.

  7. Joe

    Thanks for this analysis. I’m still not sold on Twitter yet, as it seemed to be too much overlap with other forms of communication. I’ve just reached a point of saying “enough”. Not sure where to go from here. I blogged about it here:
    Also, I know Dina quite well, and she always throws these provocative questions out all the time. It’s one of the things we love about her. I do think that computers are not a value-neutral entity, and this needs to be studied further.
    Keep up the good work on the blog. You just earned a new reader.

  8. Mark Clemente

    I think this is a great summary about what Twitter is and isn’t. I too have found it a valuable resource for info and touching base with like-minded individuals. I have never been an IMer, but I am definitely “into” Twitter!

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