Can tweeting provide value to distance education?

It’s nice to go online and see that a post can actually be a catalyst to invite discussions about topics that are meaningful. I decided to visit a blog from a fellow student today and learned that Twitter is a technology that has value to a certain audience, and I’m not the only one not included in that audience. In 140 words you have the opportunity to share the activities, thoughts, or any number of witty or wishfully-witty comments with others. “On my way to soccer practice and had the munchies so I picked up a new quesarito. OMG. amazing.” Yes, that post alone would probably bring Taco Bell’s market research team to my blog. Unfortunately I’ve not tried the legendary quesarito yet, but I’m sure I would enjoy it. Who doesn’t enjoy a tasty treat from Taco Bell after all? Oh yeah, I guess those who appreciate real Mexican food. Hah. I’ve still got love for Taco Bell. But I digress. I suppose a blog lets you do express the same sentiments without a word limit.  If I were a quesarito fan, I could probably dedicate a whole blog site to writing about it and I’d attract all kinds of fellow quesarito-lovers from around the world to like my blog and post comments like. “Dude, you and me, we’re like brothers from another mother!” Or “Quesaaaaaa—ritoooooooo! Yes!!! Eat on!!”

The point is not everyone has a desire to share their activities or wit with the world. But some 255 million do, according to Twitter’s site, and they see value in that type of relationship. One in which someone shares their ideas, or what’s going on, and another gets the latest update on what’s hot and trendy. I think certain generations of individuals to include myself don’t like to communicate in that manner. Since Twitter came out, I thought wow, that’s a great way to stay connected alright. But then again, I don’t like being connected all the time. Just like a computer being always on, always ready to process information. There is certainly value to Twitter for use as an updater tool, during emergencies like the San Diego wildfire years back, or even 9/11. Those in the thick of the action posted their feeds and immediately every follower had the latest update, even when cell phones couldn’t get through.

From a distance education (DE) perspective, Twitter may have value. Twitter does allow instructors, TAs, or students to post their thoughts about a discussion topic and followers may submit responses to that topic.  I imagine if everyone participating in a distance education class had access to synchronous technology, such as a cell phone, everyone could receive the latest updates as they’re posted. In the case of those who don’t have access to a cell phone, that benefit would be unavailable. The downside with Twitter for DE is that the communication is inherently designed to be one-way. I read somewhere once that Twitter is the perfect tool for narcissists with an opinion that matters to everyone wanting to hear it. Contrast Twitter with a blog, in which there is a two-way exchange. I believe a blog, as an asynchronous technology, lets instructors, TAs, and students post meaningful topics and responses at their convenience. Any comment, thought, or question can be responded to and a discussion can take place.  Twitter wasn’t designed for that purpose but rather to make a statement and leave no room for argument. This model contrasts learner-focused educational goals that I believe is required of higher education in today’s knowledge-based society.  This is just my humble opinion. Synchronous and asynchronous technologies alike must both be used to facilitate learning today.  Twitter is useful as a communication tool, but can it be used for DE purposes? That is something I’m curious about, since I don’t Tweet today and probably won’t in the near future…. unless I can be convinced otherwise…

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4 thoughts on “Can tweeting provide value to distance education?

  1. Jon,

    I’m in agreement with you about twitter. I’m not sure how valuable it will turn out to be. Its kind of like trying to pull out the perfect grain from a pound of rice. Lots and lots of unuseable flow for the one good nugget of info.

    • Jon,

      I was in your corner until reading examples about how Twitter is actually used in a very productive manner for educational purposes. If you have not checked this site yet you really should:

      http://www.onlineuniversities.com/blog/2010/05/100-inspiring-ways-to-use-social-media-in-the-classroom/

      It is in the one from the Module 3 Social Media for Education reading. There are many examples at the site of how educators use Twitter for teaching. Again, some of them are really useful. Better yet, if you read about some of the uses, you will see that the students actually expressed excitement and seemed to look forward to and enjoy some of the assignments. Show me where that happens much today in a typical classroom environment.

      I too was reluctant Jon. I would be curious as to your thoughts after visiting the Web site at the URL above. Please share your thoughts after reviewing the site if you get the chance.

      Take care!

      Mike

  2. Evening Jon

    Very interesting that you see Twitter as a one-way thing. I’m not a regular Twitter user but I can see a lot of debate going on whenever I do check in. On the other hand, I guess the fact that you tend to follow people whose values and ideas you share would certainly limit opportunities for debate and disagreement in everyday use, as you tend to receive stuff that reinforces what you believe.

    I came across this useful ‘Using Twitter in university research and teaching’ guide from the respected London School of Economics in the UK recently – I found it quite useful: http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/impactofsocialsciences/2011/09/29/twitter-guide/

    ..and this 1-minute video ‘Twitter for educators’ video is a fun watch:
    http://classroom-technology.weebly.com/twitter.html?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter

    I guess I’m still trying to convince myself of its use too!

    Enjoy your weekend

    Penny

  3. I missed the Twitter-verse that had the universe all ‘a-twitter’ :-). Blogging also. I was writing my dissertation and thought maybe I’d blog my dissertation process, but didn’t, because any of my writing time needed to be spent on my dissertation, not my computer. But many have really perfected educational blogging and tweeting!

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