(This is more about me reflecting to learn, as opposed to sharing my learning so please excuse the length of the post. Just trying to clarify my thoughts.)
There has been a lot of conversation on how “Twitter has changed” recently, and I have thought a lot about this concept. This is not about the service changing things such as moving from “favourites” to “likes” (which has changed how I personally have used these things, but that is not the purpose of the post), but is more about the “network.”
This is a picture I have seen shared a lot on the “Stages of Twitter” (source unknown):
There is some accuracy to this, but is there now a sixth? To me, this sixth stage would be the “Longing for the old days of Twitter.”
Now I have thought a lot about this and what this means, but the question that I have been thinking about is, “has Twitter changed or has my view of it changed?” These are two different things.
Often people refer to the idea of a “personal learning network” when discussing Twitter, yet there are so many posts on how people are using Twitter wrong, that it doesn’t seem that personal in the first place. What I am offering is not a post on how you should use Twitter, but just some of my own personal thoughts and experiences.
First of all, Twitter changes for people as their network grows larger. Learning from 100 followers is one thing, but having 100 followers move to 1000 shifts things. The way I could respond to mentions on Twitter has changed due to sheer growth in the network, and I am actually trying to be selective so that I am not overwhelmed with it. That changes your perspective.
I also do not use it to get into “debates” as much as I used to, because honestly, I am more thoughtful of the person on the other side of the tweet. People complain about the “echo chamber,” but what if some educators are going there because of the support they receive from like-minded educators. Again, this is why the “personal” exists in PLN. This picture resonates with how I used to view Twitter:
This picture resonates with how I used to view Twitter:
This doesn’t mean that I don’t partake in any disagreement, but I am really thoughtful about when I do it. If the only interactions I have with a person is when they let me know I am wrong, it kind of goes against my strong belief in relationships being the foundation of great schools. Imagine working with a colleague who only talked to you when they wanted to let you know that they disagree with you. You would either not want to be around that person, or you would eventually tune them out. If you do not feel valued, not much learning would happen.
Here is something that I have changed my mind on…Twitter chats. Honestly, I used to think they were stupid, and there are still some parts that I don’t like, but I have moderated some and jumped in others here and there. What has changed is not only my belief in their use, but my belief in the use that others get out of them. People feel these chats are super beneficial to their learning, while others don’t. Guess who is right? Both of them. That’s the beauty of the medium. It can be what you need it to be.
Another thing that I have heard is that people are sooooooo self-promotional on Twitter, and that does exist. My own rule of thumb is to make an effort to share the work of others often, while also sharing my own work. When my book came out, I talked with Dave Burgesss (co-publisher with his wife Shelley who are two of the nicest people you will ever meet) and he said something with me that kind of stuck in my head. I told him my reluctance to share the work often, and he said, “Do you believe this book will help schools which in turn will help kids? If you do, then why wouldn’t you want people to read it?” Honestly, I am proud of my work and I do think it will help others, so I share it more than I thought I would. What I don’t do is tag people every time I share it because I think it disrupts their network too much, and the message could get lost with the messenger. I honestly believe if you focus on doing great work, people will find it. Cindy Carr said this beautifully on Twitter the other day in a conversation she was having:
@cherandpete If I am part of the work, then tag, otherwise, please do not tag. ‘Good work has legs’ it has a momentum of it’s own.
— Cindy_Carr (@Cindy_Carr) January 20, 2016
That statement makes a lot of sense to me. If you are in the space, the great work will find you. I find it to be that simple. What I do love is helping people connect and see the power of the network, and it is amazing that I see how I felt when I first started reflected in many of their eyes. They are not longing for the “good times” of Twitter, because this is still new to them. I remember when people would talk about how it would be great if every teacher was on Twitter, and now that there are so many, it seems like we have taken for granted the opportunity to connect with new voices. My book has actually connected me with new people and I have been greatly appreciative of this. I appreciate those new voices because I can now learn from new people. Every now and then, I will send out a tweet asking for new blogs to read because I want my learning to be diverse, not just connect with the people I knew when I first started. Just remember, all people on Twitter started with zero followers.
You see people trying different things and that is great. People have told me how much they love Voxer, or Blab, or Pinterest, and I think that is exactly what I would want to see in others. The willingness to try new things. I have paid more attention to my own blog because I feel that I learn a significant amount from taking the time to reflect and share my thoughts. I also know that because of Twitter, I have met people like Felix Jacomino who have become good friends, yet are driven crazy by my grammatical errors, and will go in and fix my mistakes. Think about how cool that is… I have someone who lives in Miami fixing the blog for little errors because he wants to support me, and I have given him an account because I trust him. Being on Twitter made that happen.
But I was reminded last night of the powerful connections that have been provided to my family through Twitter. My dad’s memory was honoured through a community started by my brother (#ETMOOC) and a bursary was created at the University of Regina in his name.
Now I knew about this ahead of time, but what was really great, was my mom visiting and able to connect with these “strangers” from around the world who talked fondly of my brother, my dad, and even her.
That was pretty amazing to watch and a community of “strangers” brought my family to tears. I was a very proud brother and son last night, and being on Twitter was a part of that. I have actually become closer to my brother because of Twitter. We are way more connected now than we have been since I left university. If it was ONLY for that reason, using Twitter has been worth it.
So going back to my question, “has Twitter changed or has my view of it changed?” To be honest, it is both. But I choose to look at all of the positives over the negatives. Every technology we use will change, as will our view of it. This is how the world works.
But I realize that without starting a Twitter account I would have never written a blog post, authored a book, had so many incredible opportunities for my learning and career, or connected with so many awesome people. If I can help create some of those experiences for others, I would say it is worth jumping in.