I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how Twitter is not simply about sharing information – it’s much more about sharing our collective human experiences. When we read tweets, we read lives – or at least the parts that someone chooses to share. Don’t take that for granted.
My brother George recently wrote the post “Denying Our World” where he recalls a compelling narrative that causes him to reflect upon what it means to live ‘online’ and our associated imperative as educators to teach to this reality. In the comments of this post, ‘Kirsten T.” pushes back with a thoughtful response, and in part states:
I find the argument “It’s not going away” to be neither substantive, nor compelling. It echos to me the feet stamping of educators who say “I’ve always done it this way”.
I’ve used a form of the “it’s not going away” argument in past conversations and presentations, but its meaning for me seems very different than what is described by Kirsten. Since there seems to be discrepancies of understanding, I feel that the statement is worth exploring and further articulating. So what do I mean when I say “it’s not going away”?
First of all, what is the “it” that I am referring to? “It” is a transformed reality where access to new tools, abundant content, and vast networks simultaneously provide countless new affordances and associated challenges. “It” describes:
a world where governments, corporations and educational institutions try to control all of these forces but most often, realize that their attempts are futile.
I could go on …
And what do I mean by “… is not going away”?
Change is constant, so obviously, our current conditions will not remain exactly the same. Rather, there are likely three possible futures related to these new affordances (this is a simplified argument but for real substance, check out Downes’ “Ten Futures“)
Things regress, people get bored with media, and we go back to some pre-telephony version of society. I think this reality may include roller-rinks, dance-halls, and lots and lots of bowling. Actually, bowling may be a bit too high-tech especially if there are those digital scoreboards. In any case, I’m pretty sure this reality isn’t going to happen so there is not much need for further speculation.
Things move ahead; new tools are created, more content becomes available, and networks continue to be used to form and sustain important aspects of our relationships (including those of teaching and learning). And the implications of these technologies will continue to shape our world. Think, for instance, of what the impact of this “breakthrough” in spoken-word translation could have on our lives. We will soon have the ability to have accurate, automated live translation of our words into just about any language spoken. What does that mean for second-language learning? What does that mean for opening up our world to different forms of cultural knowledge? What does that mean for creating a more global, and peaceful society? And that is just *one* new technology.
We live in complex, media-rich, connected environments. As adults, we have built these spaces for our kids and set them up in situations where I’ve heard members of our generation exclaim, “I’m sure glad Youtube or Facebook didn’t exist when I was a kid!” But these do exist. And no one – no one – really understands the full implications of what these devices and spaces have on the future of our children. So what are our *obligations* in all of this as administrators, parents, and educators? Do we selfishly ignore “it” because it feels uncomfortable and complex? Or do we roll-up our sleeves, embrace this discomfort, and live up to our ethical responsibilities for our kids?
We don’t need to have all of the answers. But we need to model what it means to try.
Jesse Newhart has put together a good, 8 minute overview of how he effectively follows a high number (15,000+) of people on Twitter using Tweetdeck. I use many of the same strategies for following a lesser number on Twitter (2000+), and if you do follow a significant number of people, these ‘tricks’ are useful if not essential.
And while I am writing this, I just noticed that Brian Crosby has asked “why would you want to follow 15,000 people?”. I think the video may itself help to answer this important question as Newhart does explain each strategy in context (e.g., looking for links, helping to answer people’s questions, noticing popular trends among followers). While I do not follow that many, I know that I do benefit from following more people than I can regularly engage.
Dean, Rob, Rick, and I had the privilege of speaking with Howard Rheingold for our latest podcast. In this podcast we discussed “twitter, community, and the challenges of creating inquiry-based learning”. It was a great conversation where I think we all learned and reflected quite a bit, and I hope you enjoy.
Twitter search and tagging is becoming increasingly relevant, especially in light of recent events in Iran. This timely video from Common Craft explains the basics of Twitter search, tagging, and trends. This may help people who are not currently on Twitter to understand it’s usefulness and relevance for capturing public thoughtstreams.
I was fortunate and honoured to have given the keynote address at Camosun College’s 2009 Walls Optional conference in Victoria, BC. The presentation provided a brief overview of the changing nature of knowledge, the rise of social networks, and the impact of emerging technologies/media on teaching & learning. Below, i have included the recorded video feed, the slide deck via Slideshare, and a link to the original Keynote file. Note that the Keynote file is very large (over 300MB) as it includes video files. Also, this file includes my speaker notes which were written as personal prompts and not as the actual, given dialogue.
Full presentation available here in Keynote.app format.
Please let me know if you have any questions about the presentation, or any of the content discussed. And thanks to the good people at Camosun College, the individuals I met at the #VictoriaTweetup the night before, and those that drove in from outside of Victoria for the event. It was a pleasure to meet you all!
Update: A Blip.tv version of the video is now available.
I was recently interviewed by Sheila Coles of the Morning Edition about Twitter. We talked about some of the implications of Twitter for teaching, learning, and privacy. The full interview is available here.
Also related, Rocketboom has done a recent segment on “The Twitter Global Mind” and it’s definitely worth watching. My favourite quote from the piece: “Twitter currently controls the most contemporary thought stream humanity has ever seen.”
The latest Edtech Posse Podcast is up. This was a live podcast with Dean Shareski, Rob Wall, Rick Schwier, and myself. We started talking about Twitter, and then meandered into a number of random topics. Thanks everyone for participating and listening.
Jordan (a former student of mine) and I were briefly interviewed for a short CBC piece about Twitter. It is interesting to see the increased interest in the service by mainstream media, especially in the past several months.
Additionally, here’s an older piece from the CBC (March 2002) that discussed the implementation of highspeed Internet in every Saskatchewan school (was quite a big deal at the time). While there is a shared focus in the two pieces around connectivity, there is certainly a shift in what this means. In 2002, the focus here was in retrieving content/information. Now, the focus is much more on establishing human connections and social interactivity.
I find that one of the most useful features of Twitter is the resource sharing. With a well-established network of educators, it seems easy to solicit responses from educators who are willing to share favourite resources on various topics. Today, one of my undergraduate students Krystal (@tealek) inquired about digital story telling resources. I sent out a tweet, and many good people within my network sent back their responses. I have collected these below (sorry if I missed anyone):
Again, sorry if I missed anyone or screwed up any of the links. Do let me know.
This is one of my favourite uses of Twitter. Through the generosity of educators, it can be easy to gather a substantial list of educator-recommended resources on topics like this. And, I’m happy that through this post, I can give back a little to my network.