This past year, I heard–and saw–many students shift from using Facebook regularly to embracing Twitter. I caught students constantly checking their accounts, sending mostly inane and sometimes shockingly inappropriate messages during the school day. Can’t w8 to get high and f%$k this school, to name a few. I couldn’t stand it.
Instead of focusing on my digital storytelling assignment, those addicted students toggled back and forth from editing a picture or audio clip to checking their Twitter feed. Is there any substance to this? I thought to myself regularly.
Now some of my students have moved on to Tumblr as the next big thing, but Twitter’s popularity has skyrocketed in recent years across demographic groups. According to mediabistro, the number of users on Twitter recently surpassed half a billion, but apparently only one third of those Twitterers are active users. Count me as a newbie, a barely active user.
I joined the masses in the Twitterverse.
I signed up a few months ago, after my friend Steve Kertis of Kertis Creative recommended that I test it out. After all, it’s hard to be a practicing blogger or writer, hoping to reach greater audiences and engage in continuing dialogue, without playing the social media game. Not just Facebook. Not just Twitter. Not just Pinterest. But a combination of several sites seems to be the MO.
I understand Twitter’s potential value, so I follow fifty or so people, mostly fellow educators and technology writers/thinkers, to scan the information they curate. I’ll click on an article link now and then. But I find it a chore to retweet, post regularly, and attempt to amass followers and follows. I have a whopping 12 followers.
I already have my “go-to” sites for information, great blogs I check on WordPress, and spend enough time engaged with a screen.
I can see why some educators push to teach students to use Twitter thoughtfully, but I don’t think the overzealous approach by educators like Vicki Davis at Cool Cat Teacher and Lisa Nielsen at Innovative Educator, advocating for unbridled cell phone use in classrooms, is prudent.
I don’t want to allow students to have the constant distraction at their fingertips. With regards to digital media/literacy, I’d rather teach them to blog, use Google Drive, and connect on Skype with other classrooms across the world. Technophiles such as Davis and Nielsen don’t seem to be willing to reflect on whether or not constant connectivity and mobile device use is actually a good thing. I also don’t buy the argument that “writing” on a mobile device during class time is generally a productive use of time compared to handwriting or typing responses to thoughtful prompts.
I’m not entirely sold on Twitter personally, but I’m not giving up just yet. I am currently convinced, however, that I don’t want students to be able to use Twitter all day, every class period, on their mobile devices, even with instruction on how to be more mindful users.
What are your thoughts? Do you Tweet? Do you find it beneficial personally or professionally? Why do you choose to spend time on Twitter, versus other social media outlets? How about Twitter’s role in education? Does it have a place?