Saturday, 13 June 2009

Twitter for teaching or for staffroom teacher talk?

Twitter, the microblogging tool that allows you to relay short updates in real time and see what others are saying, has yet to really take off here in Germany. My own students (mostly business people whom I teach in small classes or one2one) don't use it, so I don't currently need to develop didactics for it. But if you are teaching at college and have classes with over 20 people, you should really think about using it to allow all of them to express themselves and to let everyone see what they are saying. Look at how Monika Rankin used Twitter at the University of Texas at Dallas in a history class of 90 (!) students, where "small class quality" simply is not an option (from Read Write Web; see Rankin's own summary here):

Burcu Akyol wrote a nice reflective summary on Twitter in her blog.

Shelly Terrell is setting up a free EFL discussion group called Twitter Discussions on EduFire and is discussing the procedure and her experience in her blog. Very interesting!

My colleagues here in Munich have expressed many, many reservations towards Twitter, primarily that it's a huge waste of time. I'll admit spending too much time on Twitter myself. In fact, I've already experienced Twitter burnout from getting too much valuable input that left me feeling totally stressed out by a huge to-do list. Yes, you read correctly: Too much valuable information. Because Twitter is anything but a medium for hollow chitchat. On the contrary, it is very dense communication, a few words and a link among people who have chosen to follow each other because they share the same kind of interests. It's very much like being at a perpetual Special Interest Group subconference. What turns me off is too much reciprocal back-patting and grooming. You tend to lose perspective when you keep reminding your in-group how brilliant you all are. But that comes with the terrain and you sort of need to filter it out. Once you've got that down you can concentrate on getting fabulous tips from colleagues, staffroom style.

Update: Nik Peachey wrote an article on building a useful Twitter network here: He also wishes us good luck with the blog. Thank you!


Shelly said...

Great post! I completely understand about the burnout from such "valuable information". Recently, I have been updating my Firefox tools and adding apps to manage and save the information I have gotten from the Tweets.
People might wonder why dedicate time to Twitter. In the last month of using Twitter I have been motivated and more productive in my career field than the entire year. Just reading about everyone's projects and seeing the tools has lead to experimentation with the tools. Most people in the US at least waste valuable time watching TV. Twitter is a much better use of my time!
Moreover, the time has come when educators will need to be current with online technologies. In the business field people do not question the use and knowledge of new technologies. It is because people in the business field have realized that information is power, especially in the face of our global economic crisis. Twitter is a resource in receiving that knowledge in a very manageable way, only 140 characters!

Anne Hodgson said...

Dear Shelly,
Welcome :)! BTW, check out Lucy's post of Feb 2008 on teaching w. Twitter:
Now that we've found such great colleagues, I hope we find students, too :)
Alle the best,

Anne Hodgson said...

See Shelly's second installment of "Twitter Trails" here, with her ideas on how to use Twitter for teaching: