cc licensed ( BY SD ) flickr photo shared by Ed Yourdon
There has been post after post acknowledging how educators love Twitter while also encouraging others to use it themselves. With that though comes skeptics (as there should be), questioning whether the use of Twitter is beneficial to educators. I have thought about that question a lot and I can give a definitive answer: yes and no ( I am 100% certain of this).
So to prove this, we have to look at a few things. First off, we have to look at how educators are using Twitter. Simply signing up for Twitter doesn’t improve anything in your classroom (similar to the notion that having a Twitter account will make people do inappropriate things and cyberbully). It all comes down to the use of it. I offer two scenarios in my own use of Twitter below.
Scenario A – Being on Twitter for the sake of being on Twitter
When I first started Twitter, my first follows were my brother, Shaquille O’Neal and every other Laker related Twitter account I could find. Although I liked talking to my brother, I was more worried about seeing what was happening with my favourite basketball team. Then about two weeks I quit using twitter and then thought to myself, “How does this improve teaching and learning? Whoever thought that is seriously crazy.”
Scenario B -Using Twitter to follow and learn from other educators
A year later, I went back to using Twitter in a totally different fashion and followed educators, found some great information on things that were happening in classrooms and schools, and it took my learning to a different level. I started trying different things and engaging in conversations that sometimes took place on Twitter or went to another space because of Twitter (blog, website, webinar, etc.). I started learning about things in an abundance, but also started to question educational trends (flipped classroom, BYOD, interactive whiteboards) because I felt that I had built enough knowledge to feel comfortable wondering aloud about these trends.
So here is the thing when people that actually use Twitter challenge with the question, “does Twitter improve education?” The first thing that I do when I see this question, is look at their Twitter stream, who they follow, and how they participate. I have seen an educator who follows no one other than 3-10 people openly pose this question, while another educator who asked this spends the majority of his time discussing travel and talking about things that really have little to do with what is happening in schools (on Twitter). I am not criticizing their use of Twitter or their knowledge of teaching and learning (I actually learn a lot from both of them while they may not learn much from me), but I am guessing that they probably don’t see the difference Twitter can make on the profession based on their own use of the service. When we actually experience Scenario B, it seems we are more likely to be an advocate for others to jump on the “Twitter Train”.
Yesterday, in my own school division, teachers in numbers not seen before, were sharing what they were learning and connecting with others on our professional development day. It was fantastic to watch and I was glad to see what was happening around the school division, while watching this group of educators engage in further conversations regarding their learning.
So to me, ultimately here is how you can find out if Twitter “works” for improving education. Ask someone who uses it about their engagement in their own learning and if that has changed because of Twitter. If you were to ask me, I would tell you that jumping on Twitter and using it how I do now, it has engaged me in my learning more than I have ever been in not only my career, but truly my life. I explore things that I am interested in, and I am exposed to ideas that I would not have heard of otherwise. If you ask someone else the same question and they say their use of Twitter has not engaged their learning, well then you have a different answer. Both yes and no, which honestly is fine to me.
If you are looking for a “number” as evidence, I don’t have one. All I have right now is stories and experience and to be honest, I am not sure that I need much more. Engaging in Twitter will work for one person, and will not work for another depending upon their use of it. But if I am engaged more in my learning than I ever have been, while also sharing what I am learning with others, doesn’t that say that “Twitter” works? It does to (and for) me. Do we really need more data? If more teachers focused on being true lifelong learners while sharing that learning openly, don’t you think education would improve? I know what I would put my money on.
UPDATE: As I don’t want to give the wrong impression, and based on the comments on the blog and Twitter, the title should have been adjusted to “Does the USE of Twitter Improve Education?”, as that is what I am really discussing in this post. As many have already shared this, I have chosen not to change the title so that people don’t feel what they have shared is being misrepresented. Thanks for the comments so that I could add this note and clarification.