Twitter Problem #2: Information Overload
“I am against social media because I fear that it has too many distractions.”
The Twitterverse is virtually without bound—vast pools of information circulate across the social network each second. For teachers with notoriously little spare time and an abundance of distractions, Twitter can lose appeal despite it being a valuable platform for exchanging ideas and accessing resources.
#Hashtags enable teachers to filter through their Twitter feed and quickly find relevant professional and industry-focused information. Many lists of popular education hashtags exist that teachers can consult. After searching for relevant communication streams, teachers can save and follow #hashtag streams that contain valuable information, in a single click.
Also, Twitter hosted education chats move at the speed of the Twitterverse—a speed that’s too fast for some. In our experience, Twitter chats evoke a diversity of opinion in teachers. After participating in a Twitter education chat hosted by Rutgers Alternate Route, one teacher praised Twitter as the perfect medium for the modern teacher, while another disfavored Twitter because they experienced difficulties finding their Tweets in the chat.
It’s all too easy for teachers who are inexperienced with Twitter to feel that their tweet is a tree falling in the forest (are they being heard?) especially when their tweets don’t receive a reply or aren’t retweeted. This is a feeling that consistent participation in Twitter chats can dissipate. In the immediate term, teachers can resolve this concern with a simple Twitter hack. With what’s called a mention (@username), teachers can pose follow up questions and share responses with all participants of a chat, while singling out participants whom they would like to engage in one-to-one discussion threads. Singled out chat participants receive an instant notification of Tweets that are directed at them.
Twitter Problem #3: Too Few Characters
“Social media provides unparalleled access to resources and proficiency, [which] is expected in the teaching profession. However, I feel social media sacrifices depth over easy access for communication.”
The art of brevity in communication is something that few teachers have mastered. That’s part of what makes them feel at home when leading a classroom—and frustrated when faced with Twitter’s 140 character limit. The good news is that teachers don’t have to forcefully simplify their ideas in order for them to satisfy Twitter’s character limits. It is possible to share ideas in multiple Tweets—the key is to ensure that sentences don’t break between Tweets. This could make it more difficult for readers to follow the communication thread.
Do Teachers Like Anything About Twitter?
“Use of social media is very helpful. You get instant help/feedback/reactions/suggestions/ideas from educators across the globe.”
Despite commonly cited challenges with Twitter, many teachers are realizing its benefits. Teachers nationwide, including many of our own candidates and program leaders, are using Twitter as a professional development tool—cultivating robust professional learning networks and maintaining professional contact with peers near and far.
Beyond professional networking, teachers also consult Twitter as a classroom resource aid, to enhance student engagement, and to connect with parents and the community. As more teachers share how they are leveraging Twitter’s benefits, perhaps their more hesitant peers will revisit the idea of experimenting with Twitter and advancing their own digital literacy.
[Readers: Continue the conversation on Twitter! Should teachers consult Twitter as an added resource? Do you follow any strategies for incorporating Twitter into your daily professional practice? How vital is social media to teachers’ digital literacy?]
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