I’ve challenged some of my colleagues to take the 23 Things challenge to become more invested in online learning this summer. This website includes a 10-week game plan for learning some online learning and presenting methods that are useful for teachers, and that are appropriate activities for the age group we teach. There are other 23 Things lists out there, I know, but this is the one that we’ve chosen to work with, and that I’ve decided to complete.

The previous entries in this series are here:

  1. Getting Started
  2. Discovery
  3. Setting Up a Blog
  4. Starting with Flickr
  5. Find some Flickr Toys and Tools
  6. Blog about the role of tech in your classroom
  7. Initial experiment with RSS Readers
  8. RSS Readers continued
  9. Cloud Computing
  10. Web 2.0 Activty
  11. YouTube & Video
  12. Podcasts
  13. eBooks
  14. Wikis (a disaster story)
  15. Wiki Sandbox
  16. Tagging Links: Delicious
  17. Tagging Links: Technorati
  18. Twitter

Activity 19: Twitter in Education

I’ve made a deliberate effort in the last week to use Twitter more deliberately. it’s hard, because school isn’t in session, to know how I’d use it as an educator. I’ve read a lot of good articles this week, learned a thing or two, communicated successfully with some strangers, and both lost my cool and said dumb things online in a public forum where I can’t erase my errors. Whoops! At least @Polyphanes was polite enough to tell me I was incorrect and provide the correct quotation rather than lambaste me for my error at great length…

At least I didn’t say anything that brought the Wrath of the Internet down upon me. Remember the “Cooks Source” story? Or this guy from the Philadelphia Eagles who’s been in the news lately? I’m reminded of the XKCD.com cartoon of the guy who refuses to go to bed because there’s someone being wrong on the Internet. More and more, I think, we the teachers don’t want to be those wrong people. Saying the wrong thing on ye olde Internet can cause controversy for an entertainer or celebrity — but I think it could get a teacher fired

I talked to someone recently about how I use Twitter largely as an advertising service for my blog posts. As such a service, it fails. When I first got a Twitter account, I got around 60% of my web traffic from followers on Twitter. Now there’s a horde of people who provide more focused content in educational areas (guess there aren’t that many people into tai chi). Facebook generates more of my traffic today than anything else. The only way to get twitter to be a more active source of interest in my blog and in me would be to use it more frequently, and to spam it more often. Yet each time I do so, I’m drawing attention to myself, and the more often it becomes critical to be right.

Back in the heady days of Twitter experimentation, I think it was ok to suggest your students be on Twitter and do cool work in public. Shelly Blake-Plock, for example, who used to run Teach Paperless and ran the Paperless Classroom Project let kids use it to communicate during Latin translation tests to communicate their vision of the translation, to share notes about grammar and vocabulary and style; he developed best-practices for twitter in the classroom more or less as Twitter appeared… That was cool to watch. All at work, though, has gone underground, I think. It’s happening on private Twitter accounts or in other forums.

And this, of course, is where we find the mysterious, painful, awkward gap between the transformative powers of web 2.0 tools, and the school administrator and school-teacher’s awareness of responsibility and liability. Bringing a student into Twitter’s orbit feels a lot like consigning them to live in a very public and semi-permanent way in the most awkward years of their lives. it’s hard to make tweets go away. They don’t, not really. The instant format makes it stupidly easy to say something amazing — or amazingly dumb — in Atwood minute window. Riley Cooper’s tweets and Michael Vick’s tweets live on, empowering a permanent reminder of who they were.

So yes, I think I’ll keep using my twitter account; but cautiously. And I don’t feel any great hurry to wed my classroom practice to it more deeply.