March 8, 2011 by Willy Cardoso
It’s been a bit over a year since I joined Twitter and I’d like to say here what I take from it as a teacher and learner. These are the first things that came up:
Open systems are far better than closed systems when it comes to learning and teaching.
Twitter is an open system - anyone can get in and out at anytime; the number of people you can connect with is so great that in my perception it is infinite, that is, I don’t/can’t see where it ends. It’s flexible enough for when I’m busy, bored, bleeding, I can just not be there. Conversely, classrooms and schools are closed systems – strict access, strict timetable, limited number of people.
There’s no assigned leader, facilitator, manager, expert – these things we attribute to, aham, teachers. If you think someone on twitter facilitates your development, it’s fine, but that’s because you want it, not because that was chosen for you. I had the chance to choose my ‘mentors’ and they had the chance to choose me. It is great when that is not insitutionalized.
It is terrific for shy people.
I don’t know why shyness is still seen as a personal trait to be avoided, so if one is shy, others think that they have to create opportunities for this person not to be shy, that is, they need to change this person from shy to extrovert, the most common way to do this it to put this person in the limelight. What a f*%& mistake! – What you do instead is to create a place where the shy can be shy and be alright with it. I see social media as this place, Twitter in this case, a very good place for shy folks. It turns out, at least for me, that I’m a lot less shy than when I didn’t hang out on Twitter. One of the reasons is the next point.
Mind comes first, body (maybe) later.
If you follow someone and they follow you back and you have regular interactions and so on, I like to believe that it is firstly because of your ideas, wittiness, tastes, divergences, timezone, whatever, not because you’re a pretty face, which is what happens in the physical world whether we like it or not. At a school, for example. First class, the suburban chubby boy on eyeglasses has already a disadvantage in the social group, he has to work really hard to blend in, and this, as we know, influence learning – a lot. In face-to-face encounters, first impressions are based on looks, on Twitter I think it is not. No one knows really where I come from, if I’m poor or wealthy, if I went to a good school or if I wear trendy clothes. No one knows that it’s two o’clock here and I’m still in the couch on PJs, well, now you know, but who cares?
And the great thing is that when you actually meet twitter friends face-to-face, there’s no ice to break! And let’s face it breaking the ice is a bore. When you meet someone like that, you’re already interested.
What if then, when possible, face-to-face courses started earlier online?
You develop skills that are useful
If you plan to hang out on Earth for a little longer, it’s advisable that you learn how to learn information and communication technologies. I stopped caring about my very refined skill of looking up words on a dictionary, to be good at looking up anything on the Internet. Twitter trains you eyes and brain to be efficient amidst a waterfall of information. When people say they are not on Twitter because it’s too much information, that’s exactly the point of being there, but you’ll lose ground if you only use your dictionary-ish analytical skills.
Attention and responsiveness – being connected to hundreds or thousands of people talking at the same time teaches you to be selective, and that’s good refinement for the offline world. It’s a waste of time if you respond to everything that happens to you or anyone that wants your attention, that happens so much that one can easily spend half a day taking care of the interests of others. Since it is impossible to react to everything on Twitter, take that and don’t react to everything anywhere else.
It is not a revolution and it won’t change education
What’s happening? – that’s what people are asked on the status box, and the majority says they’re at the supermarket and there’s a big line, and that’s why they hate Justin B. When you say you’re connected to hundreds of teachers and that it’s better than any staff room you’ve ever had, people think you’re crazy. If in only a day1 million people followed a Hollywood super-drunk, I can’t believe that the same medium will improve anything dramatically. BUT, the few people (compared to the total) that are using this tool to improve educational practices, are making remarkable changes, so in the end it’s the people who decide to do something better than answering what’s happening, not the medium. Again, it’s the people! So when I say it won’t change education is a) because some people say that and I don’t like it, and b) that I think it’s not like the TV, or the coursebook, or Google, which are incredibly pervasive.
Top tweets as I write this posts are:
- Subway just surpassed McDonald’s as the world’s largest restaurant chain, measured by # of outlets. Who would have thought??
- To be financially secure don’t spend money that you have not earned to buy things you don’t need to impress people whom you don’t like.
- Apparently Leona Lewis has done more for women than Emmeline Pankhurst. Well done to the morons who voted in the Metro poll.
- On International Women’s Day, see our picks for the world’s most amazing women.
For me, these are irrelevant, useless information. For most users they are not, they are top. So, it’s not what it offers, but how you decide to use it. That’s my approach to formal education sometimes, not what it offers me per se (usually very little), but how and why I want to use it (access, credentials, status).
Some other random thoughts
I still don’t see the point of bringing Twitter to a classroom, but I would like to bring a class to Twitter.
Today, I think only 15% of my twitter network is really important to me. I wonder what to do to improve that, unfollow massively is an option, engage with different people too. But in the end I just let it be, it’s real life.
Lately, I haven’t hit the follow button on anyone’s page which has over a thousand followers. I don’t know why…
I often find it weird to be speaking to no-one and hundreds of people at the same time. It’s weird not to know who’s listening.
And finally, I wonder when it will end.
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