Friday, April 30, 2010

Twitter: Lame or Misunderstood?

Last month, I mentioned an idea to use Twitter to let students communicate with the teacher and others live in a classroom. It turns out there is a professor in Texas doing this in her history class. Students tweet during class as well as when they're not in the classroom. Students can text in their tweets, use their laptops, or write a note and hand it to the TA to tweet for them. Interesting.

The question, though, is whether this will really connect to younger students. According to a few studies I've seen, younger students aren't interested in Twitter. They do text a lot, and they use Facebook. You'd think that anyone who liked texting would like Twitter, but apparently that's not the case. You could use Facebook to facilitate this same in-class communication just as well as Twitter. In the end, the tool itself probably doesn't matter that much, so long as you find something to open up the lines of communication with your students.

It would be nice if people would learn the various tools, the etiquette to using each, and the strengths and weaknesses of each, before making a judgment as to how lame or like totally awesome a given technology is.

We recently had an earthquake a few hundred miles away from our town, and one guy I talked to said the first place he thought to look was Facebook, to figure out what happened. The first place I thought to look was Twitter. On Twitter, I was instantly connected to hundreds of other people who I don't know discussing the earthquake. On Facebook, there were less than half a dozen people that I know who mentioned something about it. I really didn't gain any information from Facebook.

There are problems with Twitter. There are problems with Facebook. Both have benefits. Choose to participate or not in either or both. However you do or don't participate, there are conversations happening. Will you be part of those conversations? Will you start a conversation?