Sunday, 30 December 2012

What is your favourite Twitter story? #edcmooc


I wrote this in response to a post by a fellow #edcmooc'er, Nigel Thomas. I originally wrote a reply on his blog, and then realised more than half an hour had passed and I'd written and re-written about five paragraphs. So it was obviously something that I wanted to get down myself! Here is the original post from Nigel and my rambling reply.
I would like to know what your favourite use of Twitter is, and invite you to add this in the comments below. 

Hi Nigel, that was a good post and always good to hear a different opinion from people; I think social media can have a habit of self-affirming itself all the time (like in the very funny video you shared). Myself, I see Twitter, Facebook, or any other social media platform as being just like any other real life social space - you're presenting yourself & interacting with others.

I think they are superb tools. Imagine 25 years ago saying you could (in theory) connect with anyone else in the world instantly and at no cost, you would be amazed. They are all blank canvases, and so how they are used is a reflection of the people using them. Or indeed the social groups & crowd behaviour that people fall into (eg "if my friends are all tweeting what they ate for dinner maybe I should do too?"). So maybe Twitter makes you squirm because it feels like you're hanging out with people who need to let the rest of the world know when they have found a parking space or stubbed their toe?

But there are also innumerable creative & practical ways that you could use Twitter. Try using hashtags (eg #edtech) to get a tailored flow of information on a particular topic. See here how teachers in Northern Ireland gathered tips and advice via their #NIdchat hashtag. That useful conference you went to - it's like having that all the time. People have Tweeted under the guise of historical figures. What a novel way of imagining what was going through Napoleon or Nero's mind on famous historical days. Poets can use Twitter - it's a challenge to construct a poem using just 140 characters. The Swedish government handed the @sweden Twitter account over to a citizen per week this year and let them tweet about whatever. It didn't always work, but it was an original idea to try promote tourism, or just to see how normal citizens would go about representing their country. Has a company ever done that? And would you respect them more for taking a risk rather than towing the predictable "branded" line? And is that a good or bad feature of digital, or human, life that you can assume a different persona than you might present elsewhere?

I thought Angela's points were also interesting about how her shyer students have used Twitter to open up & express themselves. You could spend your entire life on Twitter, and I am sure there have been papers & journals written on it. On the other hand, consider the vast swathes of the world's population who don't use Twitter at all. Are they really missing anything?

It will be interesting to see where these social media platforms are in 10, 50, or 100 years time. Or what will have replaced it? Instead of physically tweeting or posting a status update, you might just mentally do it. All that time you take trying to express yourself in a certain way, language, or form, will be gone - that vague, cloudy thought you have swirling around your head will just pop out clear as you like. All those silly misunderstandings & memory lapses - "I thought you meant this?", "I meant to say that", "I couldn't find the word to express it", "That's not what I was thinking at all!", "What was that thing called again?!?" - will be gone. Everyone will know what each other is really thinking, we will all be happier, and we can spend our time actually solving problems rather than trying simply to articulate them. Well, OK, not really, but isn't that what technology is doing for us now anyway? From GPS & calculators, to pacemakers & x-rays. Saving labour, human error, and helping us see what we'd previously been guessing at (and could you include "a Google search" in that list?). But maybe that's where the fine line between utopia and dystopia lies? (this was mentioned in the EDCMOOC course introduction video remember?) And perhaps how we use Twitter now is a sign of how we might use technology in the future - to better or belittle ourselves? There are some good stories here


Finally, just a different perspective. Have a think where any of your good ideas have ever come from? From Twitter or Facebook? Or is it actually lying in the bath, scribbling on the back of a napkin, or doing the ironing? To some degree, no matter how much technology develops, I don't think there will ever be any substitute for idly gazing off into the distance now and then and thinking about nothing in particular.




Pictures courtesy of Roger Hargreaves and Mr Men

More stories:

20 comments:

  1. Loved your post, Chris. "Instead of physically tweeting or posting a status update, you might just mentally do it." Now that really scares me. There are some thoughts that just need to be left private.I think there is a fine line between utopia and dystopia. Let's just hope all this technological advancement creates a better world.
    I always look forward to your blogs, can't wait til the next one!

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  2. Thanks Willa. I have much appreciated the chance to read & comment on yours and others blogs too. It's been very motivating. As for private and public, I take your point. But what about wikileaks? Did that change the world for the better? And we had two scandals in the UK over MP expenses and journalists hacking mobile phones. They both blurred the line between what is, or should be, deemed "private" or "public". I think it's a very complicated issue, and the advance in technology could make things even more ethically complex.

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  3. Chris, did you start a thread somewhere on how we use twitter? I'm losing the plot with being able to find all our far flung conversations. If you didn't, we then we (you) should. If you did, can you send me the link please?! g+ is good in that we can categorise the conversations,fb is turning into one great big too long page to find stuff.

    If you are doing surveys, twitter can be a great way to reach respondents if that fits in with your sampling. I've completed a couple on twitter and I think I was actually a good target for those particular ones, even though I wasn't specifically targeted. I liked your bit about poems. That's a great idea.
    Thought tweets are a scary concept......
    Angela

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    1. Hi Angela, I don't think there is a thread on how we use Twitter - I could be wrong though! I might let this stew for a bit just now, and see what happens in our group on Twitter as the course develops.

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  5. Hi Chris,

    Loved your post and sorry I've haven't commented sooner on your other posts. Now that the holidays are over, I will be more focused on this class, and our quad blog.

    I agree with you that Twitter and other social sites are all about how we "present ourselves and interact with others." I haven't been on Twitter that long, and a few years ago, like Nigel, I thought Twitter's purpose was another way for people to write frivolous nonsense and waste time, but I soon discovered it was a great way to learn and globally network with other like minded educators or others in different fields. I have both lurked and participated in educational Twitter chats, which do take some getting used to because they are lightening fast, and I have found that the technology does not change the way we interact. In Twitter-verse, you still see the same type of behaviors people exhibit in real life face to face interactions. The 140 characters or less and the lack of face to face interaction does not change the way people act in a social context. Twitter may be a different forum, but the behaviors are the same. You have a few people monopolizing the chat, a few people self-promoting their blogs or other "stuff", a few who are off topic, lost, or "off the wall", a few who refuse to give you the time of day and answer your direct tweets to them if you haven't met a certain quota of Twitter followers...still wondering the # of followers needed to earn someone celebrity Twitter status on these chats...lol. And then, there's the polite people who will interact with you regardless of their Twitter celebrity and will gladly share what they know.

    I also find that like a real life gathering the conversation can get sidetracked and boring because of all the platitudes. Being in education for so long, I hear the same old complaints educators face in real life week after week, but is there ever a specific plan of action to leverage the power of these social media sites and force the powers that be to improve education for our children?

    So I ask, in what specific ways, besides professional development, are educators leveraging the power of Twitter to effect real concrete change in education? In my limited experience with Twitter, it seems we're all preaching to the choir, and the stakeholders who need to be listening to the tweets have no presence at all in cyberspace, probably never will, but they're the ones with the real power to effect change...or are they? How can we can use Twitter to empower ourselves as educators, make our voices heard and usurp their power over our children?

    There are lots of rosy colored conversations on Twitter with no specific plans of action when there's a darker reality affecting our children's education everyday. I begin to think how Twitter has been used to topple governments; there are dissenters around the world who use Twitter to spread their message and mobilize their people to take action. Besides being one of the best ways to create one's own professional development, which of course empowers us to effect change, I see so much more potential for educators to use Twitter as a change agent to improve learning conditions for students. Maybe I'm totally wrong, but for me, sometimes Twitter can be like that beautiful bird chirping outside your bedroom window at 5 am, a reminder of nature's beauty, while sometimes, the chirps are so monotonous, you want to just scream and tell the bird to just shut up and fly away!

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    1. Thanks Ary for your very considered response. I liked the image of the bird on the windowsill - that's just how I feel about it and that was a great image! You also make a very important point about how Twitter, or any social media, can or should be used to effect real change. That might be the acid test for them, and whether they have any long term significance beyond being a flavour of the month type thing. Maybe their role is more like a stepping stone. A conversation or connection here, might eventually lead to a change somewhere else? Thanks again for your comment, Plenty to think about

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  6. Hi Chris!
    I have been using Twitter for almost four years. For me Twitter is a way of life. Sometimes, the only way to get up-to-date information on what is going on in my country (Venezuela), sometimes a way to connect with people. Thanks to Twitter I learned of the coursera courses. I have a whole 2.0 "family" and many friends and colleagues that I would have never to get to know and share with if it wasn't for this wonderful communication tool.

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    1. Hi Isabel, thanks for your comment. I too found out about the course via Twitter so that's been a big plus in it's favour from my point of view!
      Chris

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  7. In response to your question, Chris, my favoured use of Twitter is for connecting with people and for discovering up to date information pertaining to my field of interest, which is digital literacies, that’s preferably digital literacies as textual practice rather than technology skills or competency. And it’s at this point that I have to say I agree with Ary, when she says that conversations on Twitter are like “preaching to the choir” and some people “have no presence at all in cyberspace”. You see, there’s a lot of talk about digital literacies by people on Twitter, but the vast majority are the tech savvy (and the super tech savvy) crowd discussing the topic from the point of view of the technology and competence and not from the angle of the changing nature of textual practice as caused by the read/write web. There are many people that I’d like to connect with on Twitter and discuss the topic from the point of view of textual practice but by and large they’re just not in that space. Indeed, some of them do not value the medium one jot and will not be rolling up anytime soon. So it seems to me that Twitter is not great at serving up diversity or exposing you to different points of view. Furthermore, it may be brilliant, unsurpassable even, at delivering bang up to date information and for sensing the current mood around a topic, but if you want something to discover something that happened last week, or last year or, heaven help you, establish a long held view or belief, then Twitter has an unashamed bias built into it. It can’t be done. Don’t misunderstand me. I think Twitter is a fantastic communication tool and, like Isabel, I too feel that I have a whole Twitter "family", but like all tools Web 2.0 out there, it has it’s affordances and it has it’s constraints.

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    1. Thanks Helen. I kind of agree & disagree. I don't think everyone on Twitter is that tech savvy and I've seen Twitter used in things like Teach Meets where it is very open and accessible to anyone who is willing to have a go. And can really expose people to opportunities & networks. On the other hand, yes I agree that it can be sometimes be full of platitudes as Ary says. That's why I posted this as "stories from Twitter" because I wanted to see as many real life examples of how people use it effectively in practice

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  8. Hi Chris, I've now read Nigel's post, the replies to it and your post here. You complement one another very well. And I smiled and nodded several times as I often have the discussion with friends on how to use the social media or if to use them at all.

    For me, all the social media are, after all, just media. It is what the users make of it. If everybody posts just trivial stuff, it will be full of it. But... it isn't :-) Because there are people in the internet who have a good understanding of what is relevant for others. What's helpful, what's interesting...

    Personally, I had hesitated very long until I signed up for a twitter account. Facebook was fine for me but I never thought it would be possible to express meaningful things in 140 letters. The limitation bears the secret. You have to think more about a tweet than about a facebook post (which you can edit nowadays) to make in understable to others and to still stay with 140 letters. I enjoy the challenge ;-)

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    1. Hi Diana, it is a challenge isn't it? I'm not a big "text speak" kind of person so I cringe when I have to shorten a word in a tweet! The New Zealand book council do a thing on Fridays where you have to make a tweet story from using six words that they give you. It's a great little creative task! Have a look at #fridayshorts. I also started wondering about why some people will tweet all the time about any trivial thing. I don't actually dislike it, and maybe it does some good to get something out your head and somewhere else. Maybe it even helps the brain, or helps people organise the random stuff floating around your head? It doesn't all have to be erudite. On the other hand I think it's also addictive which is not such a good thing. Hmmm, I'm out of my depth a bit here & just supposing. Need to read up a bit more. Thanks for the comment.

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  9. My university has started a twitter account based on the Sweden idea where a different member of the community is the tweeter-of-the-week. We've had faculty, students, staff tweet. It's an interesting way for me to connect and to learn about different aspects of the university I might not encounter.

    https://twitter.com/GeorgeMasonU

    I'd recommend it for any organization.

    I've only recently started using twitter more regularly to connect to people posting articles on topics that interest me, to hear what my university president is interested in, to find food trucks in my area as they post their locations.... it's an interesting medium for conferences. I like the democracy aspect of it for conferences in the sense that anyone can ask a question or post a comment about what they're hearing at any time so it opens the conversation from just the time limits for people to ask in person. It's like passing notes in class in that sense.

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    1. Thanks for the comment Margret (hope I got your name right?. I agree it's good to use in conferences. I attended one where the plenary speaker actually invited people to tweet during her speech, and went onto Twitter every 5 mins or so to see what people were saying. Worked really well. And when the big screen wasn't being used for presentations, we used http://visibletweets.com/ to display the tweets coming into the hashtag. In between conversations, it was quite nice to check in on as you strolled past the screen. That's interesting your Uni has been doing the Sweden thing. I think it's a great idea. Anything is better than faceless "on message" tweets, and for a big organisation it's nice to "meet" the staff and see different points of view. And anyone can do it so it's quite liberating and also motivating to give someone that responsibility. I think I'll suggest it at work too. Thanks for your comment! Chris

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  10. I like the brevity of twitter. I follow several hashtags that I find interesting such as #amwriting #charente (where I live) and #jazz. From the brief things that people tweet I can decide whether to read the article or not.
    I like the idea that you can communicate with someone when it is convenient for you so a conversation might take a few days. You don't have to be there all the time which is great when in different time zones.
    Recently there have been examples of storytelling on twitter. It shows imagination to use this media and the restrictiveness to 140 characters to tell stories.
    It can also be great fun. Here is a fun conversation that I had http://kerrydwyer.net/2012/06/26/a-story-of-tweets-jelly-and-wisdom/ Just a little fun.

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    1. Thank you Kerry. I love using twitter, blogs etc to experiment with story telling. I think it's fascinating. Have you tried #fridayshorts? Your jelly and wisdom story was great by the way. If you want to try another sometime, I'm game.
      Chris

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    2. Thank you Chris.
      I am glad you liked it - a bit of fun. I have now read about embedding tweets so I am keen to try that. The story just happened really without trying and I think that was why it was such fun. We should engage in conversations and see what comes of it rather than planning a story. I will find you on twitter although this profile is quite a busy one as it is linked to tribber and some other automated RT's.
      Something I haven't worked out yet is how to know if someone replies to a post on a blog that is not on the same platform as mine. Your reply here for example.

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  11. I love the @sweden idea, Chris. So creative, and I'm pleased that were copying it downunder with @WeAreAustralia.

    Twitter is an interesting one because, for such a simple technology, it has significant implications for so much of what we do - not only in education, but also in the business world; for example, marketing (http://wp.me/pf1R0-2sd) and customer service (http://wp.me/pf1R0-1ld).

    By the way, I agree with you... Think there will never be any substitute for idly gazing off into the distance now and then and thinking about nothing in particular. Sometimes it's good to be off the grid :0)

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