Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Your Use of Twitter: Are you just making a lot of noise?

I have been thinking a lot lately about my use of Twitter. I think about the things that I tweet, resources I share and receive, and discussions I have had. My question is this:  When I tweet about things like better ways to use technology in class, or better ways to engage students, am I just making noise? Or am I using those things in the class to become a better teacher for my students?

It becomes overwhelming at times the amount of information that can be found on Twitter. It is easy to tweet and forget. It is easy to share a link and not look at it again. It is easy to have a worthwhile conversation about education and not use what you learned it in your classroom. It is easy.

Is it easy for you? How do you use Twitter? Are you using Twitter to become a better teacher? Or are you just making a lot of  noise?


  1. I feel the same way. I want to use Twitter to become a better teacher but I fear that it just distracts me from my true purpose - to work with the kids to help them be their best - I know i can get good ideas from Twitter but finding balance is hard!

  2. An interesting question and something to ponder. I could list the ways that Twitter has helped me improve learning experiences and opportunities for the kids in my school (finding collaborators for global projects, quickly finding reliable resources and tools for the classroom, etc...), but at the same time, I use Twitter for fun -- to make noise -- too. It is a social tool.


  3. I agree and feel the same way about all of my online PD. Making connections with educators is fun - but is it really helping me be a better administrator. Now that I think of it, I have the same question about ALL of my PD. Twitter = learning, but when does learning make me a better teacher?

  4. It may be noise but there are a lot of people listening! Personally I have gained a lot of comfort and strength from the conversations I've listened to and taken part in on Twitter. It made me realise that others were as passionate about education as I am. Teaching can be a lonely profession at times; we spend a lot of time talking to kids but get few opportunities to talk to adults; Twitter has helped me in this regard.Keep making the noise Brian!

  5. I have only recently joined twitter but have found it invaluable. It was very overwhelming at first but as Señora (Becky) Searls there is a definite need to find a balance. There have been several times when I have needed help and advice for doing something and within a matter of minutes someone has come up with an answer for me. I also enjoy selectively reading info. from the links people put up. However, I do feel that sometimes people are just tweeting (what a stupid word) for the sake of it and when it's the same thing over and over again it makes me wonder whether there would be a better, more constructive way to get the message across and get involved in education reform (which is what these tweets that are the same are usually about).

  6. Nice post. I too have been struggling with Twitter management. We all can agree "there are great PD resources on Twitter" but how do we organize them after the instant look as they flow through our Twitter stream. I haven't found a good way to organize resources I want to come back to later.

    I also struggle to find a good way to add and subtract followers. I think in some ways it would be addition by subtraction - un-following those who are not adding value to me professionally - but this is really hard to do.

    I am absolutely finding ways to make me a more relevent and current district leader. Twitter allows me to stay "one book ahead" with new ideas and innovative approaches.

    Thanks for contributing so much to my learning.

  7. I just went back about 50 tweets. Over 74% were tweets about links that had nothing to do with the person tweeting...noise. They are easy to ignore. About 5 were fluffy observations...noise. 3 were responses to someone that didn't have enough information in the tweet to figure out what the subject was...noise. 2 were original thoughts...I stopped and read both of those. The problem I am finding is that the noise is drumming out the original thoughts. I wonder if twitter is becoming a giant recycling center of links to somewhat progressive ideas.

    At one point I did click on all of the links, but now it is a very, very rare occasion in which I can click on a link about a topic I haven't already read and researched about. I fear that as more and more people come into twitter they adapt to the current culture which stresses sharing others thoughts (links) rather than their own. It seems as though the only time I really see "thoughts" being exchanged are at predetermined times with #miscedchats. I can remember a time on twitter in which you could get on and bam!! exchange thoughts and banter around ideas...or maybe that is me romanticizing. I do worry that twitter has stopped to be a place to exchange ideas on the edge, and is becoming a place where only the progressive middle is discussed...and I stress discussed...where is the student work resulting from all of these discussions.
    I actually have a post brewing ripping the twitterverse as a place where people stay in their happy share link place, and don't come out of it to either share student work, or view others student work. Today over the course of four hours I tweeted out "come watch my class live" and six people clicked to watch, not a single one commented. At the same time people are more than excited to RT and RT and RT "10 Alternatives to Delicious!!" O' my...Maybe someday I will come back and actually answer your questions!

  8. This is an excellent post, and a bit of a wake up call for all of us that are using Twitter. I agree with Paul in terms of the "progressive middle" being discussed, very often times from the theoretical standpoint as opposed to the tangible, "here is an example of what I have done and why it worked" perspective.

    I truly appreciate those people that share the practical things that I can take back to my school and pass along to teachers, students and senior administration in my district. However, I do also appreciate when someone posts something particularly thought-provoking in a blog or article that makes me think differently about my practice.

    For myself, I have a blog brewing about the most practical posts for me as a high school principal. I hope that more people do the same so we can all have a repository of strategies that are "student ready" or "staff ready" that we can use right away.

    While I am relatively new to Twitter, what I have discovered is that for me, I am more enamored with those who post a few pithy and usable tweets with links to effective practice. Perhaps it is my own character flaw, but I just don't have the time to read about the "shoulds", I would rather read about the "here is what I am thinking and how I made it happen".

    One of the most valuable posts that I have read.

  9. Wow, I did not expect such excellent responses to my post. I joined Twitter just over 2 years ago and have been an active tweeter a little less than that. I decided to make this post because sometimes it feels like I get lost in the "tweeting" and forget about how my twitter connections can help me improve my teaching.

    Cheers for your thought provoking responses.

  10. Interesting question about Twitter. I remember tweeting from a conference that took place in Edmonton with Dr. Marian Small. I tried to tweet about ideas she shared about differentiating math instruction along with practical classroom suggestions. Looking back at all my tweets I wondered whether I had gone over the top! I am sure that some people tuned me out that day but I know that others appreciated the tweets as they began participating in the discussion. It was so cool that Dr. Small's ideas were going global :-)

    I must say that I have learned a ton through Twitter and I have met people I never would have met face-to-face. I am currently an educational consultant and I try to model life-long learning and risk-taking in my work and I often say things like, "I just learned about...", "I am trying this for the first time because I was encouraged and supported by my Twitter friends", "I have a new perspective about .... as a result of a Twitter discussion or chat" and I am optimistic that this reaches and benefits students.

    Sometimes I do get distracted and make 'noise' or pay attention to 'noise' but I think that adds to some of the fun through this medium. I have connected with people who love to teach, enjoy taking photographs and use Mac computers. I am learning through play just as students do.

    I think there is also the added bonus of being able to connect with students in a more modern way, a 21st century way. Not that I follow my students or they follow me, but I can relate to them in a digital way, understand what they do in their spare time and how things work in this globally connected on-line world.

  11. My active Tweeting has been over the last 6 months - and I've seen it change in that time, too. Twitter is, more and more, a personal advertising medium. We're advertising ourselves - our ideas, our approaches, our philosophies. I've done it just as much as the next person.

    I think, for me, the question has become - do I start treating it this way? Twitter, in its original design, wasn't meant to facilitate conversations, so to speak. It was meant to capture a snapshot of our thoughts at the moment.

    So, maybe we should treat it as such, and view Twitter in that context. We're putting a LOT of expectation on a medium that, in how it's designed, isn't the best way to facilitate an in-depth conversation.

    The most interesting thing I've found about Twitter is often the people we most admire in the education world on Twitter are the ones that Tweet the least (Sir Ken, Seth Godin, Ian Jukes, etc.), but have the most substance behind them.

  12. Twitter for me is strictly a place to broadcast ideas or thoughts connected to education. I tweet with various purposes. Sometimes I'm looking for responses and other times I just want to share something I came across or was feeling passionate about at the time. In the short while that I've been "tweeting," I've found it to be a very valuable place to share resources. I see it as an opportunity to get connected with elite thinkers. This is only my 3rd year of teaching so I'm looking for as many ideas and resources I can get. Teachers are great thiefs!

    In response to the question, I believe that making noise is a good thing. I'm not on twitter for everyone to agree with me or to build an alliance against everyone who doesn't think like me. Noise causes people to think. Not every tweet will lead to something groundbreaking but they can at least cause someone stop and rethink or challenge an idea. Challenging commonly accepted ideas helps to make the wheels turn.I see Twitter as an outlet. It's a place to collect ideas regardless of its intended purpose. I had a discussion with a friend recently about why we are on Twitter. He said, "I'm trying to figure out why I want people to follow me." I've wondered the same thing. I'd like to think of my tweets as purposeful or having thoughtful substance. Do I want others to have the same? With "traditional teaching" be so prevalent in our society, I like to see that others are moving in a different direction. For that reason, the more followers the better.

  13. I struggled with this Twitter issue for long myself. From all the tweets I get I use about 10%in my classroom practice, and I usually retweet either resources that other educators might find useful or blog posts that made me reflect.

    I think social media increases both the opportunity to find great ideas and the burden of getting a lot of clutter/noise. It is hard to filter but I am learning to...

  14. Hi, just came across your blog.... I forget how I got here but your observations are very interesting. Tons of comments from others that tweet.
    I couldn't find a RSS feed on your blog. I did sign up to follow you on twitter but would prefer to have you in my google reader so I can continue to read your posts.
    I'm a retired teacher still lurking around educational blogs and really admire those teachers who step into the 21st century and try out the new tools available to them. You are making a difference in so many ways!

  15. Thank you Mrs. Cote for your kind words. I have added a follow button at the top of the blog for an RSS feed. Please check it out and let me know if that is what you mean? Cheers...Brian

  16. I use to manage my three Twitter accounts....

    I find that makes Twitter manageable...
    1) Because I can "Follow" less people as I use it to follow my own lists ... each list in a separate column rather than all jumbled in Twitter's one "Follow" column
    2) also allows the creation of columns based on keyword Boolean searches
    3) and most importantly... provides me with statistics both on individual "click-troughs" on individual messages and total "click-troughs" on all messages... this gives me an idea on what is valued my Twitter audience or if my posts are "noise"...
    Without I don't think I would use Twitter at all...

  17. Thanks for sharing how you use Twitter, George. I use Tweetdeck and it seems to offer a lot of the same things that you list.

  18. I've also used Tweetdeck but when my fav feature... the ability to post texts longer than 142 characters was discontinued by Twitter when they bought it... I stopped...

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  20. It's too bad they discontinued that feature.