I had a Twitter account for almost two years and checked it maybe five times. I felt as if it was the most annoying combination of superficiality and narcissism I could imagine. How arrogant would you have to be to think that people would care about the most mundane aspects of your life written in less than a single complete sentence? Why should I care how much you think “Justin Bieber RULZ! H8Rs btr rcgnze!”
The publicity Twitter gained through Ashton Kutcher’s quest to get one million followers did not help much; it simply solidified the fact that this was a stupid waste of time.
This is what I think is preventing some teachers from even trying out Twitter. There is an assumption that (a) it is vacuous and narcissistic, and (b) it doesn’t have any relevance to what they’re doing in the classroom. Both of these things are true.
It wasn’t until I saw a presentation at the NAIS national conference that I began to think that there might be a usefulness to this technology. The presenter (@bigenhoc) solicited questions from the group during his presentation via twitter.
Nobody sent any questions.
Okay, so it didn’t work out like he wanted it to. However, he managed to reference twitter a number of times in relation to other educators, administrators, ed tech people and newsmakers. He had tapped into an entire network of people with whom he could get information, share ideas, and literally create narratives (such as the one he created about the Iranian Elections-which I am totally going to steal for my class on Iranian history). After his presentation, I began to look into twitter not as a place to demonstrate just how unique and witty your thoughts about “Scarlet Takes a Tumble” are. Twitter can actually exist as a large faculty room, in which the lesson plans, interesting articles, unique web sites, and creative ideas can be shared constantly. I no longer have to wait for those moments of serendipity when someone behind me at the copy machine notices what I’m copying and says “hey, you know what would go well with that reading…” I simply have to log into my twitter account (or check my twitteriffic app on my iPhone) and I’m immediately ensconced in new and interesting materials that I can use (or not use) in my classroom. Furthermore, much like any other piece of technology, it is there for me if I want it, and if I don’t, I can ignore it.
This is where the beauty of this technology lies. If the user decides to simply use Twitter as a means to find interesting and unique classroom materials or ideas about teaching, that’s cool. It the user wants to use Twitter to complain about Brett Favre and his endless string of comebacks, that’s cool too. Its use is entirely participant-generated.
In the two months since I began following a number of education-type people on Twitter, I’ve found tried 5-10 new and unique activities or technologies that I have never tried before. Some worked, some didn’t. (hopefully I’ll be posting soon about the ones that did work, and maybe even about those that didn’t). Even the ones that have flopped (and the kids let me know just how much they flopped) helped me become a better teacher, or at least a more resourceful teacher.
Trying new stuff is what makes this job fun-if I simply did the same thing every day, week and year, I might as well work on an assembly line. Twitter has become an amazing repository of resources for teachers. And it is 100% user controlled. It can be whatever the user wants it to be. I try to avoid the mundane and focus on those individuals who are interested in sharing materials and ideas. Others might not be; we can coexist within the same framework.
The problem that remains, of course, is convincing those who currently don’t use it that it is a valuable resource. Of course, it has to be demonstrated in a useful manner; the value has to be apparent and simplified; I think the biggest strategic mistake the advocates of edtech have made is that they’ve allowed this impression to subsist: that edtech is somehow counter to real, “old-school,” tried-and-true teaching and that we believe that anyone who doesn’t adopt every new technology is some kind of Luddite who should be cast from the profession.
There needs to be a gateway into technology. I think Twitter, with its ease-of-use and user controllability, might be a good gateway. As long as Bieber doesn’t get in the way.