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My “Verdict” On Twitter

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I joined Twitter about five weeks ago (you can find me at LarryFerlazzo) and I thought it would be a good time to reflect on my experience so far.

It’s been a good one.

WHAT I LIKE ABOUT TWITTER:

I’ve liked the interaction and it’s given me a better sense of people – both for those who I know have been readers of this blog and those whose blogs I have been reading.  It’s also been a very good place to find new resources that I’ve been able to post about here — ones that I doubt I would have found elsewhere — at least not right away.

I’ve asked for help one or two times, and was pleased to get advice and suggestions almost immediately.

Though I’ve been pretty careful about making sure that only about one-third of my “tweets” have been connected to my blog posts (mostly the “The Best…” lists), being part of Twitter has clearly helped increase readership of my blog and helped me connect to new people.  The number of “hits” my blog receives and its number of subscribers had been going up steadily anyway,  but they both have certainly “picked-up the pace” over the past five weeks.

I primarily post here on my blog about resources that I think are particularly useful for English Language Learners; certain other items that I think might be helpful to teachers facing similar challenges to the ones I face; and reports on policies related to what I think should be happening in our schools over the long-term.

In the course of identifying those specific resources, I find a lot of other good stuff that teachers could use.  Twitter provides a vehicle through which I can easily share those types of resources.

I like that I can very quickly review “tweets” that have been sent to me, and I don’t feel like I have to read each and every one.  Odds are that if I miss something really, really good, someone else has “retweeted” it, and I’ll catch it on the second or third time around.

Twitter has clearly become an important part of what many call a PLN — a Personal Learning Network.

DRAWBACKS TO TWITTER

Being an active member of Twitter does take time — both to send “tweets” and to sift through the “tweets” of others.

Even with all the positive feelings I’ve shared, it’s difficult for me to see Twitter becoming a major tool in education circles outside of those who have a special interest in educational technology.  I know that no one I work with regularly uses it, and it’s difficult for me to imagine that — at least, in the foreseeable future — they would decide that it’s worth their time.

I think — technologically and professional development-wise — most of these teachers would get a “bigger bang for their buck” by reading lengthier pieces in blogs that would be more thoughtful and reflective, and that kind of activity is more within their experience of reading articles.  I know that Sue Waters recommends that people give Twitter at least a month, and I believe that there is just too much info and too much sifting that needs to be done through “tweets” for most of these teachers to get the initial positive reinforcement necessary for them to stick with something radically new like Twitter.

In my community organizing career, we always kept in mind the importance of starting-off organizing activity by beginning within the experience of our constituency, and, since I’m interested in helping make transformative change in the way our schools operate, I think that organizing methodology makes sense — that’s why I write blogs, magazine articles and books; and why I am beginning to lead more workshops and participate in teacher groups where I’m not just “preaching to the converted” about my view of “progressive education.”

In addition, reflecting on my Twitter experience has also gotten me thinking about another organizing adage — the importance of “going to where the people are.”  In terms of using technology to connect with more teachers, this thought has led me to start thinking more about the potential use of Facebook as another organizing tool.  Though, as far as I can tell, no other teachers at my school use Twitter or even an RSS Reader for blogs, many — and not just the ones right out of college — have Facebook pages.  I’d lay odds that this mirrors the situation at a lot of other schools, too.

I personally have next-to-no experience with Facebook, and hope to explore it, and its organizing potential, in the near future.

RESOURCES FOR THOSE CONSIDERING GIVING TWITTER A TRY:

For those of you who are considering joining Twitter, here are some resources you might find helpful:

Twitter Handbook For Teachers (thanks to Richard Byrne for the tip)

The Truth About Twitter

The Top 13 Twitter Don’ts

How To Use Twitter

The Top 7 Mistakes New Twitter Users Make

Ten Twitter Misconceptions

Twitter Tips For Teachers

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Author: Larry Ferlazzo

I'm a high school teacher in Sacramento, CA.

9 Comments

  1. I agree with you. I hated the idea of Twitter when I first heard about it. Reluctantly, I joined yesterday. We’ll see how fun and useful it proves to be.

  2. Totally agree with you regarding the importance of “going to where the people are.” That is reason why I wrote my post recently on this aspect with tips like adding email subscription and perhaps adding your blog URL to Facebook.

    I personally don’t use FB a lot but I have lots of people connect with me there. People have commented on posts there and I now post the Edublogs Live Newsletter into FB where people also check it out. Definitely worth it for users that prefer FB.

    Twitter really is about people’s personal preference. While I don’t necessarily feel it is a good starting point I’ve seen it work amazingly for some new people because of the instant connection.

  3. I recommend Ning for social networking and organizing. It allows you to create your own network, and format its content and layout unlike facebook (which I do enjoy for personal social networking). NCTE and Jim Burke (The English Companion) have Nings. My school is using a Ning to host our summer faculty reading discussions.

  4. The problem that I see with Facebook is that it is great to use at home, but it is blocked in my district, so using it for or at school is out of the question. Twitter (so far) is not. I like that you can get short announcements and links to deeper material, be it blog entries or websites on Twitter, which you can then check out if it sounds interesting.

  5. Larry makes some good points, but I think he missed sone of the benefits of Twitter. I am at a high school where I am the only English teacher. It is through twitter that I have access to and share ideas with some of the greatest teachers.
    Twitter also me expand my knowledge. Teachers shouldn’t be just connecting with other teachers. As an English teacher, I follow a documentary maker, writers, a top journalism professor, a culture expert, and etc. Some of the most valuable resources I find are from fields that I would of never explored.
    Check out my “5 Reasons Teachers and Students Should Twitter”
    http://teachigen.blogspot.com/2009/04/5-reasons-teachers-and-students-should.html

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  7. I am so glad someone intelligently explained twittering! thank you so much. Now, I just need to keep following you to see if it is worth my while to go into twittering…sounds like I don’t need it if you will be posting the same info on your regular blogs. Seems to me it is just double duty for you–which, if I were you, I would drop. But I am glad SOMEONE is checking all this stuff out for the rest of us. Again, you provide an exceedingly valuable service and I applaud you for all the time and effort you put into all this. Bless you again!
    Kim Dijkstra

  8. Kim,

    I’m glad you found my Twitter explanation helpful.

    I just want to clarify that the only things I’ll be “double-posting” will probably be my “The Best…” lists. I’ll post ESL/EFL-related resources here on this blog and not on Twitter; I’ll post non-ESL/EFL-related resources there.

    Larry

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