Twitter: From the Ridiculous to the Sublime

I haven’t yet decided whether it was in a moment of sheer madness or sheer genius that I signed up for a course in emerging technologies two months ago with George Siemens and Dave Cormier as the instructors to the online course (out of the University of Manitoba).

As part of the course, we have been asked to provide a presentation on one of the applications that could be said to represent an emerging technology. I believe I was the only one of the course participants to claim twitter as my presentation topic.

I settled on the title “From the Ridiculous to the Sublime”, although I was tempted to use “How Twitter Saved My Life and Made Me Lose My Job” (this is a joke; I am gainfully employed!).

Twitter remains an object of ridicule and disdain as well as ferocious loyalty and praise.

In my five minute Jing screencast, I demonstrate my twitter home page and show off a few of its capabilities.

However, those five minutes went by screamingly fast, so I wanted to briefly include a few other questions here in my blog.

To understand JUST how viral twitter has become, you might want to look at the links I have collected in my delicious bookmarking.

Why are we fascinated with Twitter? My response is based on my observations of teenage behaviour (I have access to quite a few of those!). The need for instant gratification from our network is huge. Being able to receive almost instant feedback about our thoughts, ideas and experiences, as well as our questions is a powerful force.

Why are we repulsed? For those of us who want more – deeper, and more thoughtful from our communication may find twitter quite mundane and even narcissistic. For some time after I returned from Africa, I found it hard to take.

How is twitter a learning tool? The value of twitter definitely relies on the quality of the network – those that you are “following”. I happen to think that I follow some amazing folks who challenge me and make me think. Most of whom I follow are educators. We help each other out when we are confounded with problems and seek answers. We support each other when we are feeling down or frustrated. We share resources with each other and alert our network to breaking news around the globe. Twitter has become replacement for email because I have found recently that “direct messaging” a person in my network gets there faster than an email (or as fast).

Where does the learning take place? I think the learning takes place in the short, abbreviated conversations we have with each other. We don’t always agree with each other, but we can challenge thinking and offer different perspectives. Often I have to resort to emails when 140 characters just isn’t enough.

Who is twitter for? Twitter is for anyone who wants to build a network of excellent minds whom they can tap into.

Why do I use twitter? I will be honest here – much of what I twitter falls into “social twittering”. However, I am a firm believer that sociability (or sociality) is an important ingredient to learning. I observed this amongst my teenage research participants for my thesis work. My twittering often involves an exchange of information and ideas as well. I try to share as much as I “take” from my network. And I cannot stress enough that it is the quality of folks in my twitter network (those that I “follow”) that make the difference between narcissistic nattering and conversation that matters.

I would love some feedback on this brief presentation about twitter! Apparently, I have to improve this preso for next week’s class, so where did I lack clarity? What information is lacking? Let me know!

Does Education Need to Change?

George Siemens asks for a response to his post, Need Help: Does Education Need to Change?

  1. Does education need to change?
  2. Why or why not?
  3. If it should change, what should it become? How should education (k-12, higher, or corporate) look like in the future?

I decided to just freethink some ideas onto a document – giving myself 20 minutes or so. For the last six months or so, I have given much thought to the creation of best case learning environments. Observing classes in two African cultures has certainly influenced my thinking!

Here were my most immediate, top-of-consciousness thoughts:

Does education need to change?

Doesn’t that depend on the context and needs of the learners?

What is the goal of education?

If I believe the ultimate goal of education is to empower and maximize the potential of an individual to the benefit of greater society ( and there is an implicit value system in all of those statements, I will admit), then these are the changes I see as necessary:

  • A more humane way of evaluating “success” and competency development
  • The creation of a learning environment that is positive, encouraging – rewards success and permits a good deal of formative assessment that provides scaffolding along the way for the struggling learner
  • Opportunity for reality-based learning with a “real” audience or outcome that benefits from the learning and investigation
  • Opportunity for reflection and development of metacognition
  • Opportunity for more advanced learners to seek out their own approach to inquiry-based learning that crosses over the traditional boundaries of many disciplines
  • Opportunities for learners to experiment with their own voice and the power of their voice
  • Opportunities for learners to collaborate and communicate in problem-solving scenarios – where debate and conflict are embraced and accepted
  • Opportunities for learners to take risks; and where forgiven is extended when mistakes are made
  • Opportunities for learners to think outside themselves – beyond their own culture and socioeconomic status
  • Instructor/teachers become facilitators who are aware of best approaches because of the information they gain from participation in a network and/or keeping abreast of research
  • A sense of humour and/or sense of play is regarded as essential
  • Mutual respect and dignity between all participants in the learning process

What is missing from what I have written? I surprised myself.

No mention of technology.

So, if the tools of tech fit into the above best-case scenario of a learning environment, then that is terrific. If not,…

I would welcome any comments or critiques of my free-thinking results….