Monday, November 24, 2008

EduTwitter: What can I learn from Tweets?

I have mentioned before my ambivalence to Twitter as an educational tool (see for example Ask Twitter: Mobile phones in education). I tell people (assuming they bother to ask) that I am not convinced that Twitter is that useful a tool in schools. I really surprised myself therefore when I responded to a question by David Noble through his edonis project. Before I explain why I surprised myself, I think a brief digression to talk about the edonis project would be useful.

David Noble is currently working on an EdD with the University of Edinburgh. The focus of his thesis is: How are educators using the social web to develop their practice? One of the ways he is researching this is through the edonis project where edonis stands for "EDucator Online Impact Study". This three year project hopes to gather about 100 educators together in an onlinbe community to discuss issues, complete questionnairs and respond to questions on their use of the social web. I think this is an inspired idea. Rather than simply report on the social web in education, David has created an online community - to walk the walk as well as talk the talk. Excellent idea. He has not yet hit the 100 mark, so if you haven't already signed up, it's not to late.

(*Update: David contacted me on Twitter (appropriately enough) to say that as well as the people signed up on Ning, he has over twenty people participating by email. I'd still contact him though if you are interested - he may need some "spares". :-) *)

I responded last week to his latest request for participation. He asked:
I'd like you to recall and give brief details about a recent example of online communication between you and at least one other person, which you feel led to some kind of learning for you (professional or otherwise). You may wish to indicate: the way you communicated; whether it was in 'real time' or not; and how you found the experience.
I was surprised to find myself responding as follows:
Most recent was the Twitter exchange on digital natives. Which hopefully write up soon. Before that, it was probably another set of Twitter exchanges connected to questions my students had asked.

The nature of Twitter means it is geared to giving fasts responses and brief messages. This means I got a decent amount of feedback in a very short space of time.

I found the experience interesting. I would still claim to be sceptical of the educational value of Twitter, yet some of the best sites I've visited recently have come from links sent on Twitter and a number of blog posts have been triggered by Twitter exchanges, e.g. Can you guess what it is yet?

I am puzzled therefore as to why I am not convinced about Twitter in schools. I'm still reluctant to recommend it to students... but I recommended it anyway, most recently in a recent lecture to PGDE(S) students. I guess that's just another indicator of how deeply confused I am. :-)
So, I'm not convinced of it's value in education but it has contributed to my own learning. I'm not convinced of it's value to students but I recommend it to my students anyway.

I think I need to think it out again!

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