Twitter Is The Low Hanging Fruit Of Networked Learning

I've just finished reading a blog post by Dean Shareski on being a more regular blogger. Knowing Dean a little bit, I actually thought it may have been about fibre and looking after your bowel. But a section of the post resonated with a gnawing disconnect that I've been experiencing with Twitter as forum for connection.

For others I fear twitter got in the way and now instead of meal sized portions of learning, all we're getting is table scraps and candy.

For me, Twitter is a low hanging fruit for online thinking and learning. I cringe inwardly a little when someone pronounces Twitter as the best PD they've ever had. I wonder how it is that they have had such a barren run throughout their career for this to be true. Maybe because I'm not in with any particular social group but I mainly see people pointing to links of stuff that someone else created, sharing in jokes (which are out jokes to me), fawning over big name edublogger types, shout outs and #hashtag mania. To paraphrase Jerry Seinfeld, not that there's anything wrong with all of that, but it is a far cry from sitting down over a blog post and putting your own words, thoughts and ideas out there using as many characters as you want to get the job done. I can respect any one who is prepared to do that because it does seem that some of the more vocal Twitter fans on my twitterstream are reluctant to be bloggers. Deep down, writing in depth is a commitment and a challenge that they shy away from and espousing Twitter as the premier networked learning outlet (often referred to as their PLN) looks like a diversion away from that scenario.

Here in Adelaide at a number of departmental workshops and conferences, organisers announce that the event will "be on Twitter" and educators who don't normally engage with social media (apart from Facebook but that's not for learning, now is it?) sign up for the day and have a go at "tweeting". These accounts are then abandoned as they all return back to their day jobs and bursting email inboxes. And I can't think of any pearls of wisdom from any of these events that have benefitted my learning or triggered further thinking.

But blogging is different for me. I can recall various blog posts that have turned on the virtual light bulb for me with ideas that couldn't possibly be contained within 140 characters. From Christian Long's Future of Learning Manifesto to Leigh Blackall's Teaching Is Dead to Artichoke's Calls for Gendered Group Think about Web2.0 and Claudia Ceraso's Some thoughts on identity -particularly mine - just to name a near-handful. These posts opened up my mind to new persectives, made me reconsider what I was doing in terms of learning for myself and the staff and students with whom I work, and inspired me to strive to write for insightful and challenging purposes. I can't do any of that in a Tweet.

About all I can manage to do in a Tweet is get people offside. My attempts at conferences to be provocative have been interpreted by others as sounding snarky and negative.

So, some people can feast reasonably well from the ground level branches of networked learning or wait for those who take the time and effort to climb that metaphorical tree of learning to drop them down a tasty morsel or two - or they can plant their own tree, watch it grow and then climb up high to where the most nutritious fruit is and trade them with others who've planted their virtual learning tree nearby.

OK, I'll stop now. The metaphor is starting to get a bit stretched and thin now.

Like my efforts on Twitter.

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15 thoughts on “Twitter Is The Low Hanging Fruit Of Networked Learning

  1. alexanderberger

    I have to agree that Twitter in itself is not what I would consider an educational tool. HOWEVER, it is a handy way to gauge the nations pulse on topics such as the recebt presidential debate. Searching for #DenverDebate provided an interesting and educational firsthand look into what the nation thought of the presidential candidates.

    I prefer blogs for real learning and discussion though. In fact, I recently write a post discussing my NON-expert view of the future of education and would love your feedback:

  2. Graham Wegner

    Alexander, thanks for stopping by and leaving your thoughts on my post. I certainly don’t think that Twitter is useless as a learning tool, and your example of the US Presidential Election debates is a good one (not as important to us Australians as it might be to you!), but I do see some educators who believe that using Twitter = professional learning, and that’s where I think that they are being too easily satisfied or don’t want the harder, more rigorous effort required to blog, or to participate in a forum or to create something of value in a document or on a wiki. I’ll still continue to use Twitter as the need arises but I’m not deluding myself into thinking it is something that has more value than forms of social media that can be leveraged for networked learning. Just my opinion. Now to check out your blog post …

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  4. Michael T

    Graham, I am so glad to have stumbled upon your blog. I tend to agree with the general statement of your post, but was also glad to read that twitter is at least being focused on in Australia with regard to education. It seems to me at least that here in the U.S. it is viewed with a leery eye.

    Years ago I viewed it with that same opinion when twitter was only beginning to make its rounds and this was just with general use in mind. Only a handful of years later did I give it a chance and enjoy the experience. Its truly a service that is what you make of it.

    That said though it does seem lacking with regard education professionals. Hopefully sometime in the future we can find our own niche in the twitterverse and make it work for us.

    Keep up the wonderful work! I’ll be dropping by the blog more regularly in the future.

  5. andersem

    I agree, I don’t use twitter in my classroom but prefer blogs because of the rich experience multiple students can get out of it.

    I would love to hear from anyone who does use Twitter often in the classroom. The teachers that I know use it to tell parents about what they are doing in the classroom. To me that is just an extra step in the day and not necessary because it is not an educational tool. However, I know others use it for educational purposes. If so, how do you use it? I am open to trying it but want it to be a meaningful experience that is worth our time and effort.

  6. Rowan

    Hi Graham,

    Thanks for your post. It raises some really good points. You’re right, it is a lot easier to retweet an idea as opposed to fully expanding on your own ideas and experiences. I do like connecting with other educators. At the moment, I have become quite the Google Plus junkie. I find I am able to expand more on my thoughts there in a post. I have also found that it is a lot easier for me to connect with people as opposed to having my own blog which is a lot harder to develop an audience. Anyway, they are just some of my thoughts. Either way, we certainly need to be engaging in the dialogue for it to be productive.

    1. Graham Wegner

      @Rowan Your practice of using Google Plus is one that I hadn’t really thought of. You are right – it could really be the sweet spot for those educators who don’t want to blog in the traditional way but want to engage in online conversation in an expanded way that Twitter doesn’t allow. The connection aspect of Google Plus does help to find the audience more easily than blogging out into the ether.

  7. Dean Shareski

    Thanks for the shout out. Always interested in your thoughts.

    I’ve shied away from mentioning twitter in workshops and keynotes as the best educational place for learning. I know it is for some and I benefit greatly but I’ve also invested a great deal of time to understand and use it for various purposes.

    My blog however remains where my online learning reaps the most rewards. I flesh out ideas and get the richest feedback. I’d also suggest that for the most part it’s much simpler than twitter. It’s mostly your space and you don’t share it with others only as far as they can comment. Twitter, while defined by 140 characters is actually quite complicated and more nuanced. It’s easier to use but harder to be useful. I feel like I’m doing folks a disservice but trying to get someone to use twitter without offering them a great deal of time to fully understand it.

    The other issue is if they start with twitter, they may never start to blog and as I believe it’s a richeralce of learning, would be saddened by that.

    1. @wickstim

      Dean’s response has articulated an aspect of twitter in education that I have not been able to put my finger on.
      Twitter has, over time, become an integral part of my PLN.
      i had never really reflected on the amount of time and learning I have invested in Twitter, so thanks Dean for putting it into words.
      MichaelT; initially i found it difficult to find other like mind educators;it took me some time and learning to work it out. Now i am conversing regularly with some really interesting and resourceful people.
      Rowan; i too am using Google+ more and more for the same reasons.

      1. Graham Wegner

        Tim, it took me a little while to connect your Twitter handle to the same person who left comments on my blog here back in 2009 – when you still had a blog presence of your own. Thanks for your input – I suppose that Google + fills the space that your blog did as you can converse with other educators in a format beyond the restrictions of 140 characters.

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  9. Teebs

    Not sure why, but I couldn’t leave my website URL in the field.
    Anyway, I just read this post as it was a link of another’s blog post.
    I am glad I did. I was recently criticized for ‘all my blog posts, twitter and Google Plus posts’ as well as others. I know we live in a world of what I call infowhelm. However, I do fee that there is no harm when overcommunicating when the opposite is no communication. I also feel that because I support teachers, I need various vehicles to share and help increase their knowledge and PLN to extend beyond our circle here at home. I am a fan of pretty much all things social media. Some work better than others, and I feel strongly that it depends on the person(s) themselves what strikes their fancy. It is difficult to keep up with, yet I wouldn’t turn back from utilizing more than one form for social media for my own learning and to share that learning with my teachers to build their own capacity and use of best practices. I guess my point is, think about your audience and your goal(s). Then, choose your medium accordingly.

    1. Graham Wegner

      Hi Teebs,
      I’ve added your website URL in now – one of those Edublogs quirks, I think. Thanks for your comment – my own feelings are constantly changing and this blog post just represents my thinking at that point in time, two and a half years ago. I might have thought blogs were a higher point of learning than Twitter but it doesn’t pay to be a blog snob if no-one reads you anyway! I used to be against posting my blog post links out on Twitter because it felt like self promotion – but now if I don’t at least broadcast to that audience, I will end up catering for an audience in single figures! If the point of this all is connection and conversation, then Twitter is like the local coffee shop where it might start as small talk (links and shoutouts) but it can lead to grittier and more important conversations.


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