A couple of years ago, as I was looking at my local paper’s online edition, I came across an article from one of their columnists in regards to Twitter. Now, I probably would have passed it over had it been about anything else, however since I actually knew what he was talking about, I got a little excited. Ok, not really excited, but the title alone was enough to get me to click on it: Twitter, is like, so Pointless. For those who don’t know, Twitter (www.twitter.com) is a social networking site that allows users to post brief messages about their day to day activities, which are called tweets. Friends and family (or anyone for that matter, depending on your privacy settings) can read your tweets and respond. So if one day you have a great Italian meal that you just can’t get off your mind, you tweet about it.
As I read through the article (and actually, now looking at my previous sentence) I can see what the author was talking about. Would anyone really want to know about what I had for dinner or whether or not I had fun at the beach? However, considering the field that I am in, I couldn’t help but wonder if Twitter, or any other social networking site such as Facebook can actually have some use in Distance Learning. My interest really began to peak once I saw a presentation a colleague of mine gave, in which he demonstrated some of the uses and advantages he had using Twitter in his classroom. Being the obsessed researcher that I am, I quickly took to the internet to find more information.
I was surprised at the great deal of information out there. Most articles and blogs that I found focused on the community aspect that sites like Twitter can bring (http://chronicle.com/wiredcampus/article/2699/a-professors-tips-for-using-twitter-in-the-classroom) (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6WPVWDkF7U8). This, to me is interesting, because I immediately thought of the discussion threads that can already be used in current LMS’s. However, because twitter feeds can be sent to cell phones, there is a more immediate feel. Interaction is always a key element to any online class, and anything that would help increase the comfort level of students is a definite plus. Yet, would that always be the case? Also, you would have to take into the consideration of the quality of messages and what you expect from your students responses. At 140 or so characters, it is hard for me to picture an ongoing debate that is well thought out. That is one concern, but as stated in the video with Dr. Rankin (the second link provided), it could help avoid any miscellaneous post that students feel they have to put. Project wise, I can see how some of the suggested uses can occur (http://academhack.outsidethetext.com/home/2008/twitter-for-academia/) however I am still skeptical as to the completely online aspect, and feel this could be geared for a more web-enhanced environment. It seems practical; however, I would still need to see more concrete examples.
However, I can’t deny that Twitter can be a fun place outside of academics, and also a great resource for information and networking. If you are interested, go ahead and follow me and we can continue the conversation in 140 characters or less.